THE man described as “a father figure” to a County Armagh baby boy has dramatically changed his plea and admitted murdering him just as a trial was to begin.
Sharyar Ali (34) of Westenra Terrace, Monaghan was due to go on trial earlier this year for the murder Hunter Patrick McGleenon in November 2019, but as this was to last up to seven weeks, it was abandoned due to Covid concerns at that time.
Re-scheduled to begin on Wednesday in Newry Crown Court, the jury was sworn in and ready to proceed when a defence barrister asked for Ali to be re-arraigned.
The charge was read out to which Ali replied with one word – “Guilty”.
Little Hunter was just 11 months old at the time of his death.
Mr Justice McFarland said this automatically brought a life sentence, and adjourned the case until 15 June when the minimum term Ali is to serve will be decided.
Victim impact statements are also to be obtained from Hunter’s family.
Ali has remained in custody since his arrest after a number of unsuccessful bail applications.
When first arrested Detective Sergeant James Brannigan explained Ali had been in a relationship with the child’s mother for around a year, residing with her in Keady, despite being married to a businesswoman in Manchester.
She owned a phone shop in Monaghan where he worked.
On the morning of 26 November 2019 an ambulance was called as Hunter wasn’t breathing.
He was taken to hospital but pronounced dead.
A post-mortem revealed a significant head injury deemed “non-accidental trauma.”
As Hunter was in Ali’s care since the previous evening, he was arrested.
During interview, he claimed the baby woke around 6am and at some point, fell onto a concrete floor striking his head. Ali claimed he gave the child CPR then placed him in a cold shower which “seemed to revive him”.
He put the child back in his cot, then returned to bed himself, sleeping until woken around 9.30am by a parcel delivery.
Ali claimed to have looked in on Hunter and saw his lips were blue.
Hunter’s mother had spent the night keeping a bedside vigil with her grandmother, a short distance away.
Ali drove Hunter there, informing the mother he wasn’t breathing properly. She rushed out to the car and found the child “cold to the touch”.
Police enquiries established while Ali was in charge of Hunter, he had driven to a Dundalk casino remaining for over two hours, while the child was left alone in the car.
Later, he drove to Monaghan to collect post allegedly leaving Hunter alone in the house.
Throughout the course of multiple interviews Ali gave conflicting accounts of his movements.
Questions were also raised over his marriage, despite being in a relationship with Hunter’s mother for around a year.
During one unsuccessful bail application, defence lawyers contended Ali could be released to his wife’s address in Oldham, but when police checked this out it consisted of a flat above a shop, protected by a steel door.
No-one was present and the wife had not been seen there for eight months.
There were queries around whether Ali had taken part in a sham marriage “for immigration purposes” as it was disclosed he is facing deportation proceedings in the Republic of Ireland and did not have permission to remain in the UK.