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‘Disgust’ at 14-year jail term for thug who knifed young mum to death

By Lesley-Anne Henry

A 14-year jail term handed to a man who stabbed his girlfriend to death at a house party last year has been branded disgusting.

Mark Wallace (26), from Elmwood Drive, Bangor, was ordered to serve a minimum of 14 years behind bars after pleading guilty to the brutal murder of Katie Hughes.

The 21-year-old mother-of-one was stabbed nine times in the neck and chest at the party in Bangor on Easter Monday last year. She suffered serious injuries and died in hospital after the vicious attack on April 14, 2009.

While acknowledging that the case against Wallace was “overwhelming”, judge Mr Justice Hart gave him credit for the plea of guilty and his full admissions during police interview.

In his sentencing remarks judge Mr Justice Hart said: “Taking all the relevant factors into account, I am satisfied that this is a case which would have attracted a minimum term of imprisonment of 18 years imprisonment had he been convicted after a plea of not guilty, and in view of his plea of guilty and full admissions I impose a minimum term of 14 years imprisonment to be served before he can be considered for release by the Parole Commissioners.

“The minimum term will take into account the time spent on remand on this charge.”

The judge also dismissed claims that Katie had provoked her boyfriend.

“He accounted for his anger by saying that she was making mocking remarks to him, did not care for his feelings, and he just snapped,” said Mr Hart.

“However, whatever Katie Hughes may have said to him that night, there is no independent evidence to show that she said or did anything whatever to provoke this

murderous attack, an attack motivated by drunken and extreme jealousy.”

Politicians have reacted angrily claiming that the sentence does not reflect the severity and viciousness of Wallace’s crime. Alex Easton, who was at the scene at Park Avenue, Bangor, hours after Katie was killed, said he was “totally disgusted” with the leniency of the sentence handed out to Wallace, considering the cold-blooded manner in he had killed Katie.

“Life should mean life. Fourteen years is a shocking sentence and I am sure the family are absolutely devastated. “Somebody should be looking again at the sentence.”

Northern Ireland Policing Board member Basil McCrea added: “Society, through the judiciary, must send a message that attacks of this kind will not be tolerated.

“Given the severity of the attack, it seems to be very lenient.”

The Hughes family, who have never spoken publicly about their loss, declined to make any comment on the sentence.

However the court heard how their lives had been devastated by Katie’s death.

In her victim impact statement, her widowed mother Helen said: “On Easter Monday 2009, me and my family’s lives changed for ever. Our family as we knew it has been wrecked almost in the blink of an eye by the actions of Mark Wallace, who not only took away my daughter but left his own mother’s life in tatters.

“Because of him Katie’s life has been cut short, what life she lived she lived to the full.”

In the dock at Belfast Crown Court yesterday dressed in a blue shirt, striped tie and dark trousers, and flanked by two prison guards, Wallace glanced nervously round the room, twitching his face and occasionally biting his lower lip.

A short distance away, in the public gallery, Katie Hughes’ grieving family clutched each other’s hands and wiped away tears.

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