Two men have been jailed for their role in an armed gang which inflicted terror on a heavily pregnant woman and beat her husband with a baseball bat after mistaking them for drug dealers.
The victim, who was eight-and a-half-months pregnant, was trailed down a flight of stairs by members of the gang who were armed with a sledgehammer, axe and a claw hammer.
Her husband suffered a head injury when he was battered with a sledgehammer by raiders, who thought they were striking at the home of a drug dealer.
The couple's terrifying ordeal was heard at Belfast Crown Court yesterday when two men were jailed for their roles in the aggravated burglary at their home in the north of the city.
They have both suffered mental trauma as a result of the early morning attack.
Stephen Douglas (32), a father-of-three from Springvale Park in Belfast, who has a string of criminal convictions, was jailed for 11 years. He will serve half in prison without remission.
However, Judge Gordon Kerr QC also ordered that Douglas' period of supervised licensed parole will be extended for a further four years because he is deemed to a danger to the public.
His 23-year-old co-accused, Stewart Mercer, from Glenbryn Park in Belfast, was handed a seven-year sentence – half of which will be served in custody with the remaining three-and-a-half years on licence.
The court heard a plan to break into a drug dealer's house was hatched when the men met in a pigeon club. Shortly after midnight on January 13, 2013 the pair and a third man, who was not before the court, targeted a house in the Oldpark area of the city, mistakingly believing that it was occupied by a drug dealer.
The occupants were watching TV when they heard a masked man outside their home asking if there was a drug dealer in the house. The three-man gang – who had armed themselves with a sledgehammer, axe and claw hammer – then forced their way into the property.
The heavily pregnant woman was then followed up the stairs by Mercer. He took a swipe at her before smashing a TV in the bedroom and trailing her back down the stairs.
Her husband, who had armed himself with a baseball bat, was forced into the living room, where two of the intruders shouted at him, demanding money and drugs. He was then hit over the head with a sledgehammer, while the TV was smashed using the baseball bat.
The pregnant woman told the gang that a drug dealer lived up the street. The trio left the house after beating the wounded man with his own baseball bat. They then stole his car and crashed it.
Mercer and Douglas were subsequently arrested.