Belfast Telegraph

20 years for thug who blasted ex-partner's sister to death

BY George Jackson

A man who murdered the teenage sister of his ex-partner by shooting her at close range with a single-barrel semi-automatic shotgun has been jailed for 20 years.

Phelim McNally (27), from Station Park in Toomebridge, Co Londonderry, had pleaded guilty to the murder of Lauren O'Neill (18) and to the attempted murder of his ex-partner Brenda O'Neill in her home in William Court, Bellaghy, on May 19 of last year.

Following a tariff hearing last month, Mr Justice Seamus Treacy yesterday told McNally that he'll serve 20 years in prison before he's eligible to apply for parole.

The judge described McNally's murder of Lauren as "an act of extraordinary wickedness in which he fired aimed shots from a shotgun intending to murder. Lauren, who was just 18 at the time, was struck twice. The severe injury to her heart caused by the shotgun discharge was responsible for her rapid death".

He added: "The victim was young and completely defenceless with no means of escape.

"She was seated and using her phone at the time she was shot.

"He intended to kill both Lauren and Brenda.

"The murder and the attempted murder both took place in full view of his two very young children.

"The cruelty and merciliness of these actions have left a family physically and mentally broken," he said.

He said that after shooting Lauren at point-blank range in the kitchen of Brenda's home, McNally then turned his legally-held shotgun on Brenda, shooting her in the arm and body.

"In his report, Mr K Gardiner, consultant colorectal surgeon, stated that Brenda suffered multiple pellet wounds to the right flank and right abdominal wall greater than one hundred in number," he said.

"That Brenda mercifully survived this attack was entirely fortuitous.

"Brenda, who was 22 at the time, suffered severe and permanent physical and psychological injuries.

"That she survived was entirely a matter of chance since you intended to kill her," he told McNally.

The judge said that McNally's two young children Eimhear, then aged two, and Eunan, then aged 10 months, were in the kitchen when their mother and aunt were shot.

Eimhear shouted "bad daddy, bad daddy" after the shootings.

A previous court hearing was told that McNally was angry that his relationship with Brenda had ended and that on the morning of the murder McNally had broken into Brenda's house, got into bed beside her and tried to kiss her, but she refused to countenance a reconciliation.

McNally then left the house and returned a short time later and carried out the shootings.

He then drove to his brother's home and confessed to the shootings.

Initially, McNally had denied the murder and attempted murder charges, but when his trial was due to start last October he changed his pleas to guilty.

At last month's tariff hearing the court was told McNally had assaulted Brenda during their relationship and in 2009 he threatened to kill his sister's boyfriend, telling him: "I'll put a bullet through your head."

He was given a formal caution for that threat but the following year he successfully applied to the PSNI for a firearms licence.

He then bought the Beretta shotgun he used to shoot both Lauren and Brenda.

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