Belfast Telegraph

Stanley McAuley death: Dad's killer had been spared jail for assault weeks before

By Chris Kilpatrick

The killer of a father-of-three had been given a suspended sentence for assault just weeks previously, it has emerged.

Stanley McAuley (41) died following a fight in an alleyway off Chamberlain Street in east Belfast shortly after 1am on April 14, 2013.

John Edward Hughes Holmes from Egeria Street pleaded guilty to Mr McAuley's manslaughter last month.

It was yesterday revealed Holmes (33) was given a three-month suspended prison sentence for assault the previous month following an alcohol-fuelled altercation at a takeaway.

Laganside Crown Court heard how eyewitnesses had told of tension and verbal altercations between the two men at an east Belfast working men's club hours before Mr McAuley's death. Both were heavily intoxicated at the time, with Holmes having been to several bars celebrating his 32nd birthday.

CCTV had shown Holmes leaving the club and holding a door to prevent being followed out. Mr McAuley left the club through a different exit and was said to have followed Holmes.

Defence for Holmes said his client claimed to have been struck first by Mr McAuley before returning a number of blows. While claiming he had acted in self-defence, it was accepted by Holmes he had used excessive force. He presented himself to police within hours of the fight.

A witness told police she saw Holmes kicking and punching Mr McAuley but the court was told it was not possible for medical experts to say what caused the injuries.

Post-mortem reports showed Mr McAuley sustained blunt force trauma to the head. The amount of alcohol Mr McAuley had taken and his poor health were said to have been considered as additional factors in his death. Defence for Holmes said his client was deeply remorseful for what had happened. Also in the dock were Alan John Victor Wilton (49) of Lord Street in Belfast and his 22-year-old daughter Chanel Wilton with an address at Dunraven Court in the city.

The judge was scathing in his criticism of Alan Wilton who had previously pleaded guilty to doing an act with the intention of perverting the course of justice. Chanel Wilton pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting an act with intent to pervert the course of justice.

The judge said her father was responsible for her presence in the dock. The court was told she had been in the club earlier in the evening and left with a friend. Later they came across the men in the alley, with Chanel Wilton said to have tried to stop it.

She left the scene and a short time later went to a nearby takeaway from where her boyfriend picked her up. They went to her father's home.

The next morning he left on holiday, taking with him the clothing his daughter had been wearing.

When police contacted him regarding its whereabouts he told an officer he "thought he was a big man, and he would see him when he got home".

He told police the clothes had been left at a location in Belfast but when recovered it was not what Chanel Wilton had been wearing.

Mr Justice Weir said he was not minded to impose a custodial sentence on Chanel Wilton. Sentencing will take place next week.

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