A Londonderry man who was part of an armed and masked gang who shot and killed a pizza delivery driver six days before his son was born has been jailed for eight years for his manslaughter.
Jailing 20-year-old Gary Meenan at Belfast Crown Court, Mr Justice Hart said while it was accepted he had not fired the fatal shot, he was a “willing participant” in the events which led to the shooting of 22-year-old Sean Emmet Shiels on June 24 2008.
Mr Justice Hart said “poignant” letters and statements from the family of Mr Shiels described him as a “hard working young man who was a credit to his family”.
Meenan, from Bishop Street in the city, was originally charged with murdering Mr Shiels but just a few days into his trial last month he pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
Alongside him in the dock was his 20-year-old girlfriend Nadine Kelly who was handed a one-year jail term, suspended for two years, after she pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice by giving Meenan a false alibi for the time of the killing.
Summing up the case yesterday Mr Justice Hart said Mr Shiels was part of a group of youths who were trying to track down and chase a group of men who were armed and wearing camoflage paramilitary-style clothing.
The masked gang had already shot at one car in the Bogside when they were confronted by the group in and around Bligh's Lane in the Creggan area.
As they were confronted, two shots were fired by the gang and it was one, fired from a Glock pistol, which fatally wounded the pizza delivery man.
Meenan was identified as being part of the group because while he was masked, it was so “ineffectual” the youths who knew him were able to recognise him and he was also spotted later that night without his mask.
His manslaughter plea was accepted on the basis that the Crown were unable to prove that while he was part of the masked and armed gang, they “could not exclude the possibility that he didn't realise that any member of the gang would use their firearm to kill or cause serious bodily harm”.
As well as manslaughter, Meenan also pleaded guilty to offences of assault and possessing a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence.