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Duo who murdered woman and friend will serve every single day of their jail terms

By Ashleigh McDonald

Published 01/07/2015

Caron Smyth was repeatedly punched, kicked and stamped on by Shaun Hegarty after he broke into the flat where she was living
Caron Smyth was repeatedly punched, kicked and stamped on by Shaun Hegarty after he broke into the flat where she was living

A man who murdered his former girlfriend and a man she had sought sanctuary with will serve every day of his 18-year behind bars and without remission.

Shaun Patrick Joseph Hegarty (34), formerly of Grainne House in the New Lodge area of Belfast, and his co-accused Ciaran Nugent (34) were handed their life sentences for the double murder at Belfast Crown Court yesterday.

Nugent, formerly of the Simon Community on the Falls Road, was told by a judge he will serve every day of his 14-year sentence in jail before he will be considered eligible for release by the Parole Commission.

The two men were handed life sentences after they both pleaded guilty to the "cruel and utterly senseless" murders of friends Caron Smyth (40) and Finbar McGrillen (42).

They were found in the living room of Mr McGrillen's flat at Ravenhill Court on Friday, December 13, 2013.

The friends - described in court as "two innocent people" - sustained horrific multiple injuries including fractured ribs and damaged organs, plus scores of internal and external wounds to the head, neck and chest consistent with being punched, kicked and stamped on.

Hegarty had been in a relationship with Ms Smyth, which ended days prior to her murder.

Following the breakdown of the relationship, Ms Smyth went to stay with her friend, Mr McGrillen.

Mr Justice Weir said he imagined she felt safe there, and he felt Hegarty was motivated by anger - and it was this anger that caused him to walk from north Belfast to Mr McGrillen's flat with Nugent in the early hours of December 12, 2013.

Mr Justice Weir told the killer he acted as he did out of jealousy and anger and pointed out that Hegarty was on bail when he committed the double murder and that part of his bail conditions were to stay away from Ms Smyth.

The judge also mentioned Hegarty's "unfortunate childhood" which included the brutal murder of his younger brother Kieran, who was aged 11 when he was killed on his way home from a shop in Strabane.

Telling Hegarty he had "no doubt" that the murder of his younger brother when he was a teenager has had a significant impact on him.

But Mr Justice Weir said it was a "bitter irony" that someone who had suffered such a "violent bereavement" could go on to "casually inflict" the same suffering upon others as he had done.

Nugent pleaded guilty to the double murder on the grounds of joint enterprise, in that he anticipated a serious assault would be carried out by Hegarty and assisted in efforts to clean up the scene, but didn't inflict any injuries.

Branding the double slaying of the two friends as "truly shocking", Mr Justice Weir spoke of the devasting impact the deaths have had on their families.

The judge told Hegarty and Nugent: "The lives of their close families have been permanently blighted by these dreadful crimes so casually committed."

Hegarty had gained entry to the flat by smashing a window before chasing his ex and her friend into the bedroom. Hegarty claimed he then punched them in the head and body a few times before grabbing Ms Smyth by the throat and pushing her onto the bed.

Addressing Hegarty, Mr Justice Weir said it "must have been a determined and sustained attack or multiple attacks over a period of time."

Police were called to the flat on the afternoon of Friday, December 13 following reports of a break-in, and when they arrived they found the lifeless bodies of the friends lying on a duvet in the living room.

A bottle of bleach was beside them, while a mop had been placed on top of them.

A concerted effort had been made to clean the murder scene and Nugent's DNA was found on the strainer area of a mop bucket in the flat.

Turning to Nugent, Mr Justice Weir questioned why he would walk from one end of Belfast to the other in the early hours of the morning knowing that a serious assault was going to be launched on a woman "you knew and liked and on a man who you didn't know at all".

The judge asked: "Why did you remain for a prolonged and very violent attack, and why did you become involved in cleaning up the murder scene?"

A previous hearing was told how Hegarty and Nugent were captured on CCTV at several locations in the hours before the murders.

Pointing out Hegarty's "propensity for jealous behaviour", defence barrister Frank O'Donoghoe QC said there was "no getting away from the fact that he had been guilty in the past of domestic violence in relation to previous partners".

Belfast Telegraph

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