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Judge jails kidnap thug for 'terrifying' attack on student

By John Cassidy

Published 24/09/2016

A man who tried to kidnap a student from her apartment block was jailed for four-and-a-half years yesterday
A man who tried to kidnap a student from her apartment block was jailed for four-and-a-half years yesterday

A man who tried to kidnap a student from her apartment block was jailed for four-and-a-half years yesterday.

Passing sentence at Belfast Crown Court, Judge Geoffrey Miller QC told Gareth Robert McClurg that he was "dangerous" and would spend three years on licence after his release "to protect the public".

The 24-year-old, formerly of Tower Street in the east of the city, pleaded guilty to a charge of attempted kidnapping in June on the same morning his trial was due to start.

Prosecution lawyer Mark Farrell said the university student was returning to her apartment in Belfast city centre around teatime on August 24 last year when the attack happened.

Mr Farrell told Judge Miller QC that when she let herself into the secure communal area of the complex, she noticed a man standing behind her.

"As she was walking towards the lift, she felt some male grab her from behind, put his hand over her mouth to prevent her from speaking or screaming, and drag her towards the door to the car park," he said.

The court heard that during the victim's attempts to scream for help, McClurg repeatedly told her "Sssh" as he manhandled her towards the door.

Mr Farrell said: "She began to struggle with him during the incident, which lasted no more than five to 10 seconds, before he eventually let go of her."

The victim then got into the lift, before making her way inside her apartment.

The judge heard that CCTV footage showed McClurg struggling to get the door to the apartment block open before eventually escaping.

The student was able to give a description of her attacker, but was unable to pick him out of an electronic identity parade.

Investigators later visited the apartment block and recovered fingerprints from the door that were later matched to the defendant.

The prosecution lawyer said that later the same evening, police responded to a report of a male in Victoria Square shopping centre in Belfast armed with a black-handled claw hammer and saying: "I am going to hurt someone."

McClurg was arrested and taken into custody.

The court heard that he has an extensive criminal record, which totals 70 convictions, and had been assessed by the probation service as being dangerous.

Defence counsel Terry McDonald QC said McClurg had previously been treated in Muckamore Hospital for mental health problems and would require future treatment and support.

The judge told the court the incident was a "terrifying and frightening experience'' for the woman and had a "serious impact on her''. He said a pre-sentence report assessed McClurg as being "dangerous" and also as being likely to reoffend.

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