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Pair guilty of killing man because he was gay

The family of a supermarket manager killed because of his sexuality have told of their nightmare ordeal after two men were convicted of the brutal murder.

It took the Dungannon Crown Court jury of nine men and three women just one hour and 10 minutes at the end of the three-week trial to unanimously convict Lithuanian men 23-year-old Andrius Dunauskas and 26-year-old Ramunas Balseris yesterday.

While they showed no emotion, Shaun Fitzpatrick's sister Stacy McNally wept at the guilty verdicts and was comforted by her father Bill.

Afterwards they said that they “as a family pray that these evil men never walk the streets of Northern Ireland again, because our Shaun won’t”.

In a prepared statement the married sister of the 32-year-old Spar manager said that life for them “changed for ever” on March 23, 2008, the day he was “brutally murdered”.

Mr Fitzpatrick, who made no secret of being gay, was so badly beaten, with 52 separate injuries, it was initially thought he may have been shot when found in an alleyway off Dungannon's Donaghmore Road.

Stacy described her brother as “a loving son, a great brother, wonderful uncle, fun-loving, hard-working, soft-hearted, kind and inoffensive”, and that when he died “part of us died with him”.

Thanking all those who supported them through “this nightmare”, the family said the “jury has reached the right verdict”.

Trial judge Mr Justice Hart told Dunauskas, of Lisnahull Road, and Balseris, of Altmore Drive, both in the Co Tyrone town, that the law permitted only one sentence for murder and that was life imprisonment, although next month he will determine the minimum sentence they must serve of that life term.

Mr Justice Hart also thanked the jury for their deliberations in the case which he added must have been “an unpleasant experience” for them at times.

By their verdicts the jury rejected the blame game played by both Dunauskas and Balseris in accusing each other of the “brutal and sustained assault” which led to Mr Fitzpatrick's death.

Instead they accepted the prosecution case that the murder was carried out by both men for one reason and one reason only — “that Shaun Fitzpatrick was gay” and that he was the victim of “a homosexual hate attack”.

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