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Man who gave himself PTSD after stabbing victim during violent burglary handed 8 year sentence

By Ashleigh McDonald

A man who gave himself Post Traumatic Stress Disorder due to his actions during a violent burglary was handed an eight-year sentence on Tuesday.

Emmanuel Henry broke into a house in South Belfast on July 15, and when he was confronted by the occupant, he smashed a vodka bottle over the man's head then stabbed him repeatedly in the arm and chest with the broken bottle.

Belfast Crown Court heard that the early morning incident has had a "significant and far-reaching impact" on the occupant, who sustained several serious wounds in the attack including a laceration to his lung which narrowly missed his heart.

Despite offering the injured man help after he stabbed him by showing him how to stem the blood with a duvet, Henry then told him to hand over money and his mobile. During the incident, Henry also told the man "sorry mate, wrong house."

Henry, from Eliza Street Terrace, had flashbacks and nightmares following the incident and was later diagnosed with elements of PTSD.

The 24-year old - who has a history of mental health issues and who was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 2007 - was deemed as being 'dangerous' by the Probation Board, who also determined he presented a risk to the public.

He was handed an eight-year sentence by Judge Patricia Smyth, who said that as he had been considered dangerous, after he has served half his term it would be up to the Paroles Commission whether or not be would be eligible for release.

Henry also had an additional extended two years on licence imposed, in a bid to safeguard the public.

Prior to passing sentence, Judge Smyth was told during a previous court hearing that two co-accused who were present during the break-in but who didn't use any violence have already been sentenced.

Prosecutor Kate McKay said that around 6am on the morning of July 2, 2015, three men broke into a house on Dunluce Avenue.

Police arrived after receiving a call from a male occupant saying he had been stabbed in the chest and arm. He told officers he had been woken up by an incident on the street outside, and after looking out of his window, he heard intruders in his house.

As he walked out of his bedroom, he saw three men in the hallway. He was then approached by Henry, who smashed a vodka bottle over his head then stabbed him with the broken bottle. The bottle was then held to the man's throat, with Henry threatening to slice his throat if he didn't hand over money, his phone and drugs.

The man's wallet containing cash was taken, along with his mobile. His housemate's bedroom was also entered, and while the housemate hid under a table during the ordeal, his mobile and money were also stolen.

The trio then left the premises, and after their details were circulated by the PSNI, Henry was arrested later that day.

He gave a largely 'no comment' response during police interviews, but later admitted a series of charges, including burglary with intent to inflict grievous bodily harm, and two counts of robbery.

Telling the court all three intruders were "extremely drunk", Mrs McKay described the injured occupant as an "unfortunate innocent".

The prosecutor told the court Henry had 61 previous convictions on his criminal record. She also revealed the Crown accepted that since the incident, Henry has shown remorse and "feels sorry for what he has done" to the occupant.

On the issue of remorse, Defence barrister Gavan Duffy said this was genuine and that Henry deeply regretted his actions on the morning in question.

Branding his client's life as "difficult", Mr Duffy spoke of a history of mental health issues which has included periods spent in psychiatric units as well as a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia. 

Addressing the incident, Mr Duffy said it was "some kind of mistaken identity" and that Henry was heavily intoxicated which could have led to him "perceiving it to be the house of a drug dealer".

The defence barrister said the attack with the bottle was not pre-planned, that when he acted the way he did Henry "was not in the grips of an episode of mental illness", but that "he had not been in a good place for a very long time."

Mr Duffy also said that a doctor's report compiled on Henry after the incident revealed he is showing elements of PTSD, that he dreams about what he did and wakes up in cold sweats, and that he has expressed both shame for what he did and an awareness of the impact his actions have had on the man he injured.

Passing sentence today, Judge Smyth told Henry: "This was a brutal attack on an innocent man in his own home. A bottle was smashed over his head and used to repeatedly stab him, and after that assault he was robbed."

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