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Faces of thugs who battered Coleraine pensioner walking his dog

By Staff Reporter

Two drug addicts who broke the ribs of a pensioner as he left his home to walk his dog have been jailed for what a judge described as a "cowardly attack".

The face of the 66-year-old victim was also battered during the October 7, 2015 assault at Ballycastle Road in Coleraine.

Michael McMullan (23), of Erinvale Park, Magherahoney, and Niall Butler (29), of Rockend, Corkey, yesterday appeared at Coleraine Magistrates Court for sentencing after admitting the offences earlier.

They each received four months in jail.

Butler also had a three-month suspended sentence activated to make his custodial sentence seven months.

Both were released on bail of £500 pending appeal.

The two men admitted charges of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, and McMullan also pleaded guilty to possessing a knife that was found later.

Butler pleaded guilty to a second charge of resisting a police officer in the execution of his duty.

A prosecutor said police were called and found the pensioner with broken ribs and cuts, as well as swelling to his face and blood on the front of his shirt.

A woman gave officers the names of the two men who attacked the pensioner with no apparent motive.

The prosecutor said the men had been "thrown out" of a house party next door to the victim and jumped over a wall into his garden where they attacked him.

The pair were later found at the local railway station and were "highly intoxicated".

McMullan had a knife in his waistband, while Butler resisted police.

The victim told police he was in his home and heard a commotion outside and the men were told to get off his property.

The pensioner was punched in the face, "wrestled" over a front wall, and then kicked by a second man before a female voice from next door shouted at them to stop.

McMullan's barrister Michael Smith said his client had been in England where he got involved in drug taking that led to mental health difficulties, and after he lost his job he returned home to Northern Ireland.

Mr Smith said on the night in question McMullan accepted he had taken "a significant amount of illicit drugs" and it was "bad luck" on the injured man's part that he had encountered him.

Mr Smith said it appeared the pensioner was going out to walk his dog and during the incident his wife had to lock the door to keep the defendants out of their house.

Butler's barrister Dean Mooney said it was a "disgraceful, nasty incident", and whatever the personal problems the two men had, there was nothing to justify the violence they meted out.

He said Butler had long-standing difficulties with heroin addiction but had self-referred for treatment.

Mr Mooney added that Butler had suffered significant injuries in a car crash in 2007 when his throat was "slashed" and his tongue severed, which meant he had to learn to speak again, and it had an impact on his mental health.

District Judge Liam McNally said the victim had come out of his home and was the "recipient of a cowardly attack" by the duo who left him with broken ribs and other injuries.

He said the starting point was six months in jail.

But with the pleas of guilty that was reduced to four months, and the pensioner will receive compensation totalling £500.

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