Belfast Telegraph

I never gave up hope we'd see mum's killer jailed

Family of frail pensioner get justice after 25 years

BY CHRIS KILPATRICK

The son of a frail pensioner strangled to death in her home 25 years ago said he never gave up hope of justice after finally seeing her killer jailed.

Margaret Telford was murdered in north Belfast in 1988.

Samuel Dunwoody (52) was yesterday sentenced to a minimum of 19 years in prison for her murder.

He had been living in England when arrested by detectives who linked him to the murder following a forensic breakthrough in 2011.

Dunwoody, who had been on release from prison for attacking another woman when he killed Mrs Telford, was traced after his DNA was found under the fingernails of his 68-year-old-victim.

Her son Peter Telford said family members were now able to move on with their lives after a long wait for justice.

"It is like taking a breath of fresh air after holding your breath under water for a long time, you can breath out," he said outside Laganside Crown Court in Belfast.

"I'm satisfied with everything including the way the police have worked...they've done a good job."

He described his mother as a nice person, quiet, good fun and generous.

Mrs Telford's granddaughter, Christine Christiansen, also spoke of her relief. She was 13 when Mrs Telford was killed.

"It was a terrible shock, I just remember being very upset," she added.

The court was told Dunwoody was known to Mrs Telford as she had helped him in the past, providing his family with clothing and lending him money.

The court was told Dunwoody had gone to Mrs Telford's home at Twaddell Avenue in February 1988 seeking money.

He ransacked rooms in the house and killed the pensioner when she challenged him, the court was told.

Dunwoody faced another two years in jail if Mrs Telford alerted the authorities, the court was told.

Mrs Telford's body was discovered lying in the hallway of her home by a shopkeeper on February 4, 1988.

She had been strangled to death. A pulled-out telephone wire was lying nearby. Mrs Telford, who had heart problems, had also sustained injuries to her face and head.

Police investigations at the time were unable to identify her killer. A review of the case was launched in 2011.

Testing of DNA samples from the victim found a match with Dunwoody, originally from Belfast, but with an address at High Tower, Birmingham, in the West Midlands.

The killer has a string of violent convictions for assault causing actual bodily harm and battery, including attacking the same woman three times.

He initially told police he was in prison at the time of her death, subsequently proved to be untrue, but admitted his guilt on the eve of sentencing.

Prosecutors argued he was looking for money at the pensioner's home when she found him and he killed her to ensure her silence, a case the judge and jury accepted during his trial in June.

Ciaran Murphy QC, for the prosecution, said Mrs Telford was vulnerable and trying to contact police when she was killed.

"It was to thwart this that the defendant assaulted her and ultimately killed her," he said.

Judge Corinne Philpott sentenced him for murder at Belfast Crown Court, saying: "You took advantage of a 68-year-old woman who in the past had shown you kindness and you went there to steal.

"When you realised she was going to contact the authorities, you knew your licence would be revoked and that you would have to serve another two years in prison and you were not going to have that."

Outside court, PSNI Detective Inspector Peter Montgomery said Mrs Telford was a widow, living alone and in poor health.

"At 68 years of age Peggy deserved to live in safety within the sanctuary of her own home," he said. "However Samuel Dunwoody decided to exploit that by murdering a much-loved mother, friend and neighbour.

"The Telford family have endured unnecessary suffering over the past 25 years. I hope today's events will provide some comfort and closure to them," he said.

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