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Friends subjected to savage attack as they were beaten to death in flat, court is told

By Ashleigh McDonald

Published 28/05/2015

Murder victim Caron Smyth
Murder victim Caron Smyth
Forensic experts at the scene of the double killing in December 2013

Two friends beaten to death in a flat were subjected to a savage and overwhelming attack before attempts were made to clean up the murder scene, a jury has been told.

Victims Caron Smyth (40) and Finbar McGrillen (42) were found in the living room of Mr McGrillen's Ravenhill Court flat in east Belfast on December 13, 2013.

The pair - who were described in court as "two innocent people" - sustained multiple injuries including fractured ribs, as well as scores of internal and external wounds to the head, neck and chest which were consistent with being punched, kicked and stamped on.

Two Belfast men, one of whom was in a relationship with Ms Smyth days before she was killed, were charged with murdering the friends.

Despite initially denying the charges, Shaun Patrick Joseph Hegarty (34) asked to be rearraigned at Belfast Crown Court on Tuesday, where he admitted murdering both his ex-partner Ms Smyth and Mr McGrillen.

Hegarty, formerly of Grainne House in the New Lodge area of Belfast, was handed a life sentence by Mr Justice Weir. He was told he will be informed of the minimum term he has to serve before he is eligible to be considered for release at the end of his co-accused's trial.

Prosecutors claim Ciaran Nugent (32) was with Hegarty when Ms Smyth and Mr McGrillen were killed and was part of a joint enterprise.

Nugent, formerly of the Simon Community on the Falls Road, admitted walking to Ravenhill Court with Hegarty in the early hours of December 12, 2013 - but denied he was involved in the double murder.

He also told police it was a "barbaric attack", but said he was not prepared to tout on his friend as for him that would be a "death sentence".

A Belfast Crown Court jury yesterday heard that Nugent's DNA was found on a mop bucket at the murder scene.

Crown counsel Ciaran Murphy QC said Nugent's DNA was found on the strainer area of the bucket.

Mr Murphy said it was the prosecution's case that both Nugent and Hegarty walked from the north of the city to the east in the early hours of December 12, 2013 and entered Mr McGrillen's flat, where both the occupant and his friend were murdered.

Revealing that the movements of both men were captured on CCTV as they made their way from Hegarty's flat at Grainne House to Mr McGrillen's flat, Mr Murphy said that the pair were again observed on CCTV making their way from the scene to Botanic Avenue later that morning.

The alarm was raised at around 2.45pm on Friday, December 13 by a paperboy, who rang 999 when he noticed a smashed window and the flat's front door lying open.

He called to report a suspected burglary, and when officers arrived a short time later they discovered the bodies of the deceased lying on a duvet on the living room floor with a mop placed across them and a bottle of bleach beside them. Officers also noted that a sock worn by Mr McGrillen had scorch marks on it.

Deputy State Pathologist Dr Peter Ingram carried out post mortems on both Ms Smyth and Mr McGrillen on December 15.

He concluded Mr McGrillen had died from blunt force injuries to his head, face, chest and abdomen, and that his death was as a result of the injuries he sustained in an assault.

Ms Smyth also died from blunt force trauma, and she too sustained multiple internal and external wounds including 20 fractures to her ribs and several facial wounds which suggested she had been cut with a blade.

The trial continues.

Belfast Telegraph

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