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Jailed: Man who subjected priest to 'terrifying' knife ordeal after Mass

By Nevin Farrell

A man consumed by "demons" from his childhood decided to "challenge a member of the Catholic Church" before going to Mass armed with a Stanley knife where he left a priest terrified, a court has heard.

Seamus Peter Murdock (41), of Whitehill Road, Carnlough, appeared at Ballymena Magistrates Court yesterday where he admitted possessing the knife and a second charge of common assault on Fr Dermot McKay.

He was jailed for two months.

Charges of making a threat to kill the Carnlough parish priest and possessing an offensive weapon, the knife, with intent to commit murder, were withdrawn.

Jailing Murdock, District Judge Peter King said it must have been a "terrifying" situation for Fr McKay.

Despite being jailed, Murdock walked free from court because he had already served the equivalent time on remand.

A prosecutor said that at 11.45am on Sunday, April 30, this year Fr McKay was celebrating Mass at St John the Evangelist Church in Carnlough and noticed a person he did not know who appeared to be asleep in a pew.

When Mass finished the priest entered a vestry and noticed the man in the pew was in possession of a knife.

Murdock then went into the vestry and spoke to the cleric and made a threat while holding the knife in his hand, causing Fr McKay to fear for his safety, the prosecutor added.

After a "stand-off" the priest was uninjured and Murdock left.

When police were called they recovered the knife.

Defence barrister Stephen Law said the defendant, who was handcuffed in the dock, "unreservedly apologises" for his actions.

Mr Law said the incident was borne out of a "tragic background", coupled with Murdock's mental health difficulties.

The barrister said that while the behaviour could not in any way be "explained or condoned", his client, as a young child, was "physically, mentally and emotionally traumatised by members of the Catholic Church".

Mr Law said his client had appeared before the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry in Banbridge in recent years.

Sentencing Murdock, Judge King said a report showed that the defendant had a traumatic past.

But he added: "This must have been a terrifying situation that the priest found himself in.

"The court has to put out a strong message that priests, in the sanctity of their own churches, need to be protected".

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