Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Justice for OAP after 22 years as the police officer who murdered her gets life

It was a murder that haunted the south Belfast community for more than 20 years.

Detectives were left baffled when wealthy pensioner Annabella Symington was killed in her home on Halloween night in 1989.

With no signs of forced entry or damage to the house, and two used cups found in her living room, it was one of the most notorious unsolved crimes in Northern Ireland’s history.

Nearly two decades later, a former police inspector has been jailed for life after pleading guilty to murdering the 80-year-old widow.

Kenneth McConnell (59), from Prospect Downs, Carrickfergus, wept in court yesterday as he |admitted to killing Mrs Symington during a botched robbery attempt.

She died after McConnell stuffed her cardigan sleeve into her mouth to stop her from screaming.

The former gambling addict also stole £200 from the pensioner’s purse and left her with cuts and bruises to the head.

McConnell wiped tears from his eyes as he stood in the dock at Belfast Crown Court, dressed in a light grey suit, blue shirt and striped tie.

His wife watched just feet away from the public gallery as Mr Justice Hart sentenced her husband to life behind bars.

Defence QC Frank O'Donaghue said that although this was an historic murder, there was sufficient detail in McConnell's background to benefit from an analysis by the probation services.

Also, two medical reports would be handed in for consideration by the court.

The judge told McConnell, who worked as a security guard at the University of Ulster, that life imprisonment was required by law to punish his crime.

He said he would decide next month on the minimum tariff he must serve in prison before being considered for release.

No details of Mrs Symington's murder were given to the court by prosecuting barrister Gordon Kerr QC. He did provide the court with a copy of McConnell's criminal record, which includes a blackmail conviction.

At the time of the killing, it was reported that the pensioner, found in her Willesden Park home in the Stranmillis area of Belfast, had died from mechanical asphyxiation.

Mrs Symington was a wealthy widow whose late husband had been a successful businessman.

McConnell was said to have discovered that she had money at her property after becoming friends with her niece.

He was arrested and charged in January last year when nail clippings taken from the victim during a post-mortem examination were analysed. These produced a profile which led to a sample being taken from him and sent to forensic scientists in England.

McConnell denied any involvement in the murder until DNA evidence was put to him by police.

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