Belfast Telegraph

Former partner of Northern Ireland woman is found guilty of murder bid after frenzied knife attack

Dublin-born beast's victim only survived the frenzied assault after she 'played dead'

By Patricia Devlin

A man has been found guilty of attempting to murder a woman from Northern Ireland by plunging a knife into her neck during a frenzied attack in the US.

Gillian McCann-Johnston escaped with her life by pretending to be dead until her former partner passed out due to blood loss after then slashing his own throat.

Martin Mahon, who is originally from Dublin, was convicted of the stabbing horror that left the Lisburn woman fighting for her life in Florida.

Mahon broke into the single mum's Fort Lauderdale apartment and repeatedly knifed her before trying to take his own life.

However both were saved after a neighbour heard the Co Antrim woman's screams for help.

Mahon, previously of Mountdown Road, Walkingstown, was found guilty of second degree attempted murder and violation of a restraining order at Broward County Court on Friday.

He will be sentenced in the new year.

Ms McCann-Johnston, who was in a relationship with Mahon for a number of years, declined to speak about the verdict last night.

However, a friend of the 50-year-old told the Belfast Telegraph: "Gillian is glad this very dangerous man is no longer walking the streets and she sincerely hopes he will never be released again."

Brave Gillian suffered multiple stab wounds to her neck, back, face and hands on October 28, 2014.

During a five-day trial last week, a jury at the Florida court heard how the attack happened after the Irish couple split following a two-year relationship.

Mahon, who emigrated to America 30 years previously, had been visiting family in the Walkingstown area of Dublin when he met Gillian in 2012.

After a whirlwind romance, Ms McCann-Johnston decided to leave Northern Ireland and returned to Florida with Mahon. However they split in the summer of 2014.

In September of the same year, she was forced to obtain a restraining order against the brute, who has multiple criminal convictions in the US, after he threatened to kill her.

On the afternoon of October 27, 2014, Mahon called to her Fort Lauderdale apartment to pick up personal property.

He also tried to convince his ex-girlfriend to drop the restraining order against him, telling her it would "look bad" for an upcoming drink-driving trial.

After his ex-partner refused, Mahon left her apartment.

Shorty before 6am the next day, Ms McCann-Johnston was awoken from her sleep by a light coming from the next room.

When she got up to investigate, Mahon grabbed her and "stuck the knife straight into" her neck.

As he repeatedly stabbed her, he said: "I have nothing to live for."

In an attempt to get the beast to stop, Ms McCann-Johnston pretended she was dead.

It was then the grandfather turned the knife on himself.

As he sat on top of her motionless body, Mahon repeatedly "sliced open" his own neck.

During two days of cross examination in the witness box last week, the terrified Lisburn woman revealed how she was only able to escape after her attacker succumbed to blood loss.

At the same time, neighbour Catherine Loughan heard her screams and ran to the apartment where she was met by a blood soaked Ms McCann-Johnston. Bleeding profusely from her neck, her neighbour was able to stem the blood flow until emergency services arrived.

Officers from Broward County Sheriff's Office found Mahon in a pool of his own blood inside the house. Both were rushed to hospital before Mahon was arrested.

He was found guilty by a unanimous jury verdict of second degree attempted murder and violation of a restraining order and faces more than 15 years behind bars.

Ms McCann-Johnston, who left her Co Antrim home just six years ago, had been running a cleaning business - A1 Keltic Cleaning - in the Fort Lauderdale area.

Ms McCann-Johnston still lives there and, according to friends, has happily moved on with her life.

After miraculously surviving the attack she told pals on Facebook: "I'm so happy to be alive.

"Guess it wasn't my time to go... and the scars will heal."

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