Two north Belfast men were |convicted yesterday of the unprovoked brutal murder of teenager Thomas Devlin as he walked along one of Belfast’s best-known residential roads.
The 15-year-old schoolboy was knifed during an attack by Nigel James Brown (26) and 23-year-old Gary Taylor on the leafy Somerton Road in front of two friends, one of whom was also stabbed.
It took the Belfast Crown Court jury of eight men and four women just one hour and 25 minutes to convict Brown, from the Whitewell Road, and Taylor, from nearby Mountcollyer Avenue.
By their unanimous majority verdicts the jury accepted the prosecution case that Brown and Taylor had acted as “a team” when they attacked the three teenagers, during which young Thomas was fatally stabbed nine times.
In turn, the jury rejected defence arguments that the prosecution case against Brown was a “jigsaw puzzle cut up with scissors”, whilst against Taylor it amounted to nothing more than a “fairytale — grim fairytales”.
During the five-week trial the court heard that Brown confessed to his step-father that he'd been involved in an argument with the teenage friends and saw Taylor stab the schoolboy “in a frenzy”.
Brown also claimed that when they left their then homes in Ross House in the loyalist Mount Vernon flats complex to walk a dog, he had no idea that Taylor had armed himself with a knife.
However, prosecuting lawyer, London-based QC Toby Hedworth, maintained that their intentions that night were “crystal clear” — to find “soft targets” after going out together “tooled-up”.
Mr Hedworth also claimed that Brown's admission to being at the scene was little more than “damage limitation”, whilst Taylor's supposed alibi of being elsewhere smoking dope with friends “melted away like the snow”.
Taylor, the “principal” killer of schoolboy Thomas Devlin, protested his innocence as he and his accomplice Brown were both jailed for life.
Clashing with trial judge Mr Justice McLaughlin, the 23-year-old north Belfastman shouted from the dock that “suspicion does not prove guilt”. The Crown Court judge had just thanked the jury of eight men and four women for their verdicts, which he described as being “entirely in accordance with the evidence”.
Mr Justice McLaughlin said the murder of the 15-year-old Catholic schoolboy “was a murder which completely shocked this entire community, but especially the community of north Belfast”.
The judge said that Thomas and his two friends “were attacked without any reason or provocation whatever”.
They were, he added, “three perfectly innocent young men”, and that “one of them was killed, one was injured, and the two survivors, no doubt severely traumatised”.
Then turning to address Taylor directly, Mr Justice McLaughlin declared: “It is plain that you Gary Taylor were the principal... you are the killer”.
Mr Justice McLaughlin told Taylor he could “shake your head all you like, but this county with its democratic system and system for fair trials, has heard all of the evidence ... and has determined your guilt”.