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Man whose body was dumped in boot was stabbed 200 times

By John Cassidy

Published 29/06/2016

Kyle Neil
Kyle Neil
Hugh Wesley Vance pictured with Stephanie Todd

A man was stabbed 200 times during a drunken row at a house party last year, a court has heard.

Kyle Neil's body was found in the boot of a car owned by Hugh Wesley Vance that Vance's girlfriend drove to south Belfast.

Vance (27), formerly of Comber, Co Down, has already pleaded guilty to murdering Neil (23).

The defendant's girlfriend, Stephanie Todd (26), has also admitted obstructing police and driving with excess alcohol.

Vance is already serving life for the murder. Yesterday's hearing was to determine how many years he will do without parole.

Downpatrick Crown Court, sitting in Belfast, heard Neil was subjected to a "frenzied and repeated attack" on April 12, 2015.

Prosecution counsel Liam McCollum QC said the victim, a father-of-one originally from the Ballysillan area of north Belfast, was friends with Vance and had gone to a party at his apartment on the night he was killed.

It was alleged that a fight broke out between the two men when Neil refused to leave after Todd had gone to bed and the others guests had left.

Vance said Neil grabbed a knife and "came at him", before they fell to the ground, where Vance stabbed him with scissors.

A post-mortem found 200 knife wounds to the victim's body, with the fatal injury a neck wound that severed an artery.

"There was an extensive area of blood and attempts were made by the defendant to clean up," Mr McCollum said. "He admitted responsibility and said the stabbing was frenzied and repeated."

Vance told police he put the victim's body in a blanket, rolled him downstairs and put his remains inside his car.

After driving to a nature reserve to dispose of a phone he thought belonged to the victim, Vance returned home, woke his girlfriend and told her what he had done.

"Ms Todd said she wanted to get to her mother's house in Belfast as she would know what to do," Mr McCollum said.

After arriving at the house, a call was made to the PSNI, who arrived seven minutes later and were told about the body.

After searching the defendant's car and apartment, a pair of scissors and a buckled knife were recovered. Both were covered in blood that matched the victim's DNA.

Mr McCollum said that Vance should receive a "higher starting point" for his sentence because his victim was "inebriated".

But defence counsel John McCrudden said the murder was a "tragic loss of life", adding: "We say this is a borderline case between manslaughter and murder. Neil admitted he lost control and that loss of control under old law would have been a defence.

"He didn't arm himself with a knife in advance and there was no pre-planning. This was just a fight that went out of control and exceeded self-defence."

Mr McCrudden QC urged the court not to impose a higher starting point for a sentence because Vance had "pleaded guilty at the first opportunity".

Adding his client had a previously clear criminal record, he denied Neil was "inebriated and vulnerable", saying his blood alcohol reading was three-quarters the legal driving limit.

The court also heard that for six years Vance had cared for a registered blind man with "significant physical difficulties".

The man's sister said Vance had been "honest and caring" towards her brother and added: "We are all devastated for him and the victim's family and our brother misses him terribly."

Saying society expected the defendant to punished for the murder, Mr McCrudden added: "He must pay the for his crime, and he accepts that. He would have been of great assistance to society through his work."

Peter Irvine QC, for mother-of-one Todd, said the only reason she drove the car was because she wanted her boyfriend to go to the police. She was unable to phone them because the mobile Vance threw away was hers.

"The defendant's intention at all times was to contact police by phone about the stabbings," Mr Irvine added. "She was in an extremely nervous situation and she took some alcohol to settle the nerves to some degree."

Urging the court not to impose a mandatory driving ban, Mr Irvine equated his client's driving under the influence to "a unique emergency situation".

Mr Justice Colton said he wanted time to consider all the papers in the case and would sentence both defendants next week. The judge remanded Vance back into custody and released Todd on continuing bail.

Belfast Telegraph

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