Ardoyne claw hammer murder: Louis Maguire found guilty of 'brutal' killing of Eamonn Ferguson jailed for 17 years
A north Belfast man found guilty of carrying out a "brutal" and "entirely unprovoked" murder has been told he will spend the next 17 years of his life behind bars, before he is considered eligible for release.
Louis 'Luger' Maguire - whose father is also serving a life sentence for murder - bludgeoned 35-year old Eamonn Ferguson to death with a claw hammer in the living room of his Ardoyne Place home in March 2014.
Mr Ferguson was attacked as he lay defenceless and asleep on Maguire's sofa following a day and night's drinking.
State pathologist Professor Jack Crane, who carried out the post mortem on Mr Ferguson's remains, concluded he was struck up to 20 times with a claw hammer. His head injuries were so severe that his skull was fractured in several places and his brain was bruised.
Despite continual denials, outbursts directed at Mr Ferguson's family and verbally abusing his co-accused Christopher Power during the six week trial at Belfast Crown Court, Maguire was found guilty by a jury last month of murder. The verdict was unanimous.
On Wednesday, trial judge Mr Justice Deeny told Maguire that his actions in the early hours of Saturday March 15, 2014, were "appalling" and made even worse given Mr Ferguson was a "completely innocent" man who could well have been "lured into a false sense of security".
In contrast to his behaviour throughout the trial, Maguire - who has 64 previous convictions - was quiet throughout the tariff hearing and remained so as he was led from the dock in handcuffs after being handed a minimum 17-year sentence.
As Mr Ferguson's family sat in the public gallery, they heard Mr Justice Deeny pay tribute to them - especially in the face of verbal abuse directed at them by Maguire during the trial.
Noting the family's "great loss", the Judge praised the actions of the the victim's sisters and close relatives who "attended throughout the trial, showing great dignity and restraint in the face of considerable provocation by Maguire".
During the trial, which was held in September and October, both Maguire and Power (33) denied murdering Mr Ferguson - and each blamed each other for the brutal and fatal hammer attack.
Following his arrest in March 2014, Maguire made the case that he, Power and Mr Ferguson got a taxi to his Ardoyne Place home after drinking in the town, that he left Mr Ferguson sleeping on his sofa, that he and Power went out in the early hours of Saturday March 15 to try and get cigarettes, and when he and Power returned, he found Mr Ferguson lying dead in a pool of blood.
However, when he took to the witness stand, Maguire told a completely different version of events - claiming Power was the one who killed Mr Ferguson.
He told the jury that he, Power and Mr Ferguson had returned to his house on Friday March 14, and that Power and Mr Ferguson got into an argument about missing money.
Maguire said that in the early hours of the following morning, as Mr Ferguson was trying to sleep, Power suddenly grabbed a hammer which was on the floor beside the chair he was sitting on and which he then used to kill Mr Ferguson.
This version of events was rejected by Power. During his evidence, he told the jury he and Mr Ferguson were friends and that he used to teach him music on his guitar.
At the time of the murder, Power - a traveller originally from Co Offlay - had been staying at Maguire's after losing his place in a city centre hostel and made his money busking on the streets.
Power admitted being in the house when Mr Ferguson was attacked, but said he was upstairs sleeping at the time of the attack. Power said he came down the stairs, only to find Mr Ferguson dead and Maguire sitting in a chair with a claw hammer in one hand and a cigarette in the other.
The jury acquitted Power of murder but found him guilty of assisting an offenders, namely helping Maguire in the aftermath of the murder. This involved helping Maguire destroy blood-stained clothing as well as lying to neighbours and police about returning back to Maguire's house to find Mr Ferguson dead.
Mr Justice Deeny branded this as an "elaborate charade", and said that despite being aware of what had happened to Mr Ferguson, Power not only helped Maguire but also "persisted with lies" during police interviews.
The Judge also noted that Power has spent two-and-a-half years in custody since his arrest, telling the traveller "you brought it entirely on yourself by your conduct".
After he was handed a five year and four month sentence for assisting offenders, Power was expected to be discharged from custody due to time already served.
Whilst a motive for the murder has never been disclosed, one of many witnesses to give evidence during the trial was a man who said he heard Maguire issue a threat to kill Mr Ferguson just weeks before the murder.
Keith Byrne said he knew Maguire, Power and Mr Ferguson and said that around February 28, 2014 he had a conversation with Maguire - who was displaying facial injuries - in the centre of Belfast,
Mr Byrne told the jury: "I asked him (Maguire) what happened to his face and he said he had an argument with Eamonn Ferguson and Eamonn had hit him or beaten him.
"A couple of seconds later, he produced a screwdriver from somewhere, and the words he used, the exact wording he used, was 'When I get Eamonn Ferguson I am going to f*****g kill him.'
"They were the words. It was over the beating. That's what he said. It was over the hiding he was given."
Today's tarriff hearing was told that Maguire - whose father Louis Maguire Senior is serving a 24-year sentence for the 2003 murder of north Belfast man David 'Digger' Barnes - continues to maintain he didn't kill Mr Ferguson.
His barrister Sam Stein QC said that despite these denials, Maguire "wished to apologise generally", adding: "He does reflect on the loss of Eammonn Ferguson and his own feelings towards the family and their grief."
Mr Stein also revealed Maguire's upbringing was "unstable and very difficult", telling the court his client had an "appalling childhood" which resulted in a "turbulent lifestyle" from a young age.
This included being implicated, but charges subsequently being withdrawn, in connection with his father's murder trial.