An alcoholic who stabbed his best friend to death in an unprovoked frenzy has been sentenced to at least seven years in prison.
Leon Robert Paul Johnston was so drunk that he cannot remember stabbing 24-year-old Michael McLaughlin four times, including once in the lung, in August 2010. The 26-year-old Co Antrim man appeared at Londonderry Crown Court, sitting in Belfast, where he was sentenced for the brutal attack on his “defenceless” childhood friend.
Mr Justice McLaughlin told Johnston that while he was handing down a minimum of seven years for manslaughter, it was an indeterminate sentence, and he would only be freed when and if it is deemed safe to do so.
Mr McLaughlin’s mother wept as her son’s killer was told he would have to serve at least seven years. Distraught, she cried out in court that the sentence was “an insult”. She later apologised to the judge for the outburst.
In his defence, James Gallagher QC had told the court that a “deeply remorseful” Johnston had had a troubled life.
Mr McLaughlin’s mother did not wish to comment after the proceedings.
The PSNI welcomed the sentence.