Belfast Telegraph

Thug who killed own grandad gets three years for violent robbery of shop

By Michael Donnelly

A killer who stabbed and throttled his grandfather to death as a teenager has been handed a longer prison sentence after violently robbing a shop while out on licence.

Eamon Charles Coyle (21) has been given an extended three-year stint in jail for robbing the store in Omagh and brutally beating a teenage employee with a baton.

The Co Tyrone man, who killed his grandfather in 2009, had been out on licence for just 11 weeks when he took part in the terrifying robbery of a teenager working alone.

Dungannon Crown Court Judge Gemma Loughran told Coyle – of Drumlegagh Road South in Omagh – that from his record, "it is sadly clear that despite your age, the use of serious violence is not foreign to you".

Coyle, who has spent a quarter of his young life in prison, will serve at least three years behind bars before he will be considered for release by the Parole Commissioners. This will be followed by an extended period of supervised licensed parole.

The young man was unanimously convicted in March of the robbery, which was carried out in February 2012. The jury was prevented from hearing about his 17 previous convictions, including assault and criminal damage to a police car during his arrest in a bar in the early hours of the following morning.

Coyle, originally from Holmview Terrace, Omagh, was just 16 when, in April 2009, he broke into the home of his 78-year-old grandfather Francis O'Neill, stabbed him in the neck and strangled him for £80 rent money.

Initially given just a year's detention for the manslaughter, it was later increased to two.

At the time of the robbery Coyle had only been out on licence for 11 weeks.

However, in October that year he was subsequently returned to Hydebank Young Offenders' Centre to serve the remainder of his manslaughter sentence. During his three-day trial for the robbery of the 'Hill Shop' on Omagh's Kevlin Road, the court heard that a baton-wielding Coyle was one of two men who demanded cash from a teenage shop assistant. The employee was punched in the face and chest before Coyle beat him with the baton as he tried to grab cash from the till.

During the commotion the cash was scattered about, so the killer and his partner managed to make off with just over £40.

Judge Loughran said it was a "serious incident which caused some physical injury to the young, lone shop assistant and must have been very frightening for him". She added that he was "subject to considerable force even when he was complying with your demands".

Judge Loughran said that Coyle had "played a central role and did not plead guilty" to the unsophisticated robbery.

In defence, Coyle claimed he had spent most of the early evening in the Omagh flat of two friends before going to a bar shortly before 11pm.

Although Coyle agreed with prosecutor Michael McAleer, that the robbery footage was "horrific", he insisted he wasn't responsible. He later said: "It wasn't me."

BACKGROUND

Eamon Charles Coyle was just 16 when he broke into the home of his grandfather Francis O'Neill and killed him in April 2009. He stabbed the 78-year-old in the neck and strangled him for £80 rent money. The then teenager appeared in court and was given just a year's detention for manslaughter, before it was later increased to two. Now 21, he was back before the courts this year when he was convicted of robbing a shop of cash. During the incident, Coyle beat a young teenage shop assistant with a baton.

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