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Pair admit they were in mob of 70 that battered Larne man in house

By Staff Reporter

Published 02/10/2015

Stephen Adam Blackwood
Stephen Adam Blackwood
Elizabeth Sharon Milligram

Two men have admitted being part of an armed mob of up to 70 who hospitalised a Larne man after storming his home in March last year armed with hammers, hatchets, machetes and batons.

The Greenisland men, 35-year-old Stephen Craig Mettleton and Steven Adam Blackwood (30), had originally faced other more serious charges including attempting to murder the man and causing criminal damage to his home.

However, these were allowed to "lie on the file" after Mettleton, from Rossmore Green, and Blackwood, from Moyard Gardens, pleaded guilty to affray and intimidating the man and his partner from their Knockdhu Park home.

Later, Mettleton's then girlfriend, Elizabeth Sharon Milligan (38), who gave police a false alibi, claiming he was with her in her Grange Park home in Ballyclare at the time of the attack on March 30, 2014, admitted trying to pervert the course of public justice.

All three were released on continuing bail and will be sentenced in early November.

At the opening of Mettleton and Blackwood's non-jury Diplock trial yesterday, Judge Alistair Devlin heard the victim believed he was going to die when attacked by the gang as his disabled son and two daughters hid upstairs.

Prosecution QC Neil Connor told Belfast Crown Court that when the man saw masked men getting out of several vehicles, "he instructed his two daughters to go to their bedroom and hide under the bed, and that his disabled son should go into his specially adapted bedroom".

The man then watched as the front door, boarded up due to a prior attack, was repeatedly struck with hammers and hatchets until it started to give way.

Mr Connor said he realised the front door had been forced open and some of the crowd were in his home. Some of the crowd entered the living room and smashed furniture, while others made their way upstairs.

He retreated to the kitchen and tried to hold the door closed, only to be "struck on the back of his head by one of a number of bricks and other missiles thrown through the kitchen window."

Mr Connor said: "He tried to protect himself with his hands, but given the number of attackers and the severity of the attack, this proved futile. He believed he was going to die as a result of this attack." As he fell to the floor, the last thing he remembered was that his kitchen was full of masked men. He didn't regain consciousness until after he arrived at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast.

His injuries included a fractured skull, multiple head wounds which needed staples and stitches, multiple fractured ribs and a ruptured spleen.

The accused claimed they hadn't been in Larne in years, but were linked to the incident by DNA; Mettleton through a pair of gloves and Blackwood from a black balaclava.

It was the prosecution case, said Mr Connor, that both men "were involved in an orchestrated attack... as part of a joint enterprise involving a considerable number of masked persons".

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