After three harrowing years and two agonising trials the family of tragic murder victim Shirley Finlay finally have closure.
The vulnerable 24-year-old was found beaten and strangled in a Ballymena church car park in September 2006 — three days before her 25th birthday.
Yesterday, as Shirley’s grieving family began piecing together the rest of their lives, her evil killer Henryk Gorski was starting a life sentence behind bars.
The 52-year-old Polish meat plant worker, who was on bail when he murdered Shirley, was told he would serve a minimum of 20 years before he could be considered for parole.
“This was a brutal murder and the defendant's motive can only be a matter of speculation because there was no evidence of sexual contact, but whatever happened, there is no doubt that he strangled Shirley Finlay and then dumped her body,” judge Mr Justice Hart told Antrim Crown Court.
Shirley’s battered and naked body was found wrapped in a duvet cover, bound in black bin liners and dumped in a skip in the Mount Street car park of Ballymena Baptist Church on September 18, 2007.
Disposing of her remains with such disregard was “callous in the extreme”, the judge also noted.
Following the five-week trial, which concluded in October, a jury of five women and four men rejected defence claims that Gorski had been framed by an ex-girlfriend and returned a unanimous guilty verdict after just six hours.
The original trial was abandoned in May after Gorski sacked his legal team just one day before the prosecution completed their submissions.
The former Ballymena Meats butcher, whose Hill Street flat overlooked the car park where Shirley’s body was dumped, had been out on bail facing 16 other charges including rape, false imprisonment, possession of an offensive weapon and threatening to kill a woman. The charges were later dropped because the alleged victim was too afraid to testify.
He also had a string of convictions for violence and dishonesty, crimes committed in his native Poland. These included assault on a young boy, burglary and theft.
Mr Justice Hart added: “Committing an offence whilst on bail shows that the defendant took advantage his liberty in order to commit this very grave crime.”
Gorski was linked to the murder by forensic and circumstantial evidence, including three sets of fingerprints found on the bin bags, hundreds of paint fragments and carpet fibres from his flat on items covering her body, and DNA belonging to his ex-girlfriend on a coat found near Shirley’s body.
Mr Justice Hart paid tribute to the “thorough and wide-ranging forensic examinations” carried out in the case.