A burglar who tried to burn a doctor and his family to death as they slept has been jailed for life.
Roy Martin Kerr (31) was told by Belfast Crown Court Judge Geoffrey Miller QC he must serve at least 10 years for the murder bids in May 2008.
Jailing Scots-born Kerr, who lived on Belfast's Shore Road, Judge Miller declared there were no mitigating factors in his case and that it would be up to the Parole Commissioners to decide if and when he is ever freed.
His 21-year-old girlfriend Tanya Diana Holmes, although jailed for three years, was freed because of time already served. She was acquitted of the attempted murders, but convicted of arson.
Holmes, whose address was given as the Simon Community, Lodge Road, Coleraine, will be under the supervision of probation for the next two years.
During their trial the court heard that the attack on the east Belfast home of Dr Raymond White on May 8 last year “was motivated by revenge or vengeance ... and executed with an evil disregard for the wellbeing of decent innocent people”.
And the enterprise had “but one sinister, carefully planned and vicious intent, to burn down the White family home with them inside it”.
However the court were also told that only “by some good luck Roy Kerr managed to set his hand on fire and shouted in pain .... averting the tragedy that would have ensued”.
Dr White, who took his own life in June, and his wife Aileen were to have given evidence against Kerr that very morning for burgling their home for a second time.
Judge Miller said while Kerr's murder bid “does not provide the sole cause or explanation for Dr White's death”, he was satisfied that the family's perceived “personal vendetta against them had a direct and devastating effect not only on Dr White, but also on his wife and son”.
In deciding on Kerr's appropriate sentence, Judge Miller said he noted that Kerr, with 134 previous convictions, had “displayed no real appreciation, still less concern for the welfare of his victims”.
He said there were also several aggravating features to the case, central of which were that the attack on the White family home was premeditated, planned and wholly unprovoked.
The motivation for it was a combination of Kerr's act of vengeance and his determination to prevent evidence being given against him and that a Kerr intended his victims to perish in a blaze.