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Killer caught on camera

The man who knifed a Bangor guesthouse owner to death has been jailed for life and told he will have to serve at least 12-and-a-half years before being considered for release.

Imposing the minimum tariff on 21-year-old James William McCoy at Downpatrick Crown Court, sitting in Belfast, Lord Justice Girvan said there was “significant medical evidence” which showed that when he killed 68-year-old William Spence, McCoy had been suffering from Asperger syndrome, a form of autism which would have significantly impaired his judgment.

The body of the pensioner was found in the laundry room of Tara Guesthouse on Bangor's Princetown Road on July 1, 2008 and police investigations revealed he had been stabbed 19 times.

As his trial was about to begin last month McCoy, with an address at the Simon Community Hostel on Central Avenue in Bangor, pleaded guilty to his murder and to charges of aggravated |burglary on a date unknown between June 29 and July 2 2008.

He also admitted to a further charge of burglary in relation to the guesthouse on June 22, 2008, a week before the murder.

Yesterday the judge said that after he was refused entry into the hostel because he was drunk, McCoy broke into the guesthouse and fell through a Perspex roof into the laundry room, where he fell asleep. However, the judge said that according to what McCoy had told various doctors and probation officers, he attacked Mr Spence “in what can only be described as a frenzy” when the pensioner went to investigate.

Speaking outside the court, Mr Spence's sister said she was “numb with disappointment”.

Earlier, prosecuting QC Liam McCollum said when police got to the scene they found footprints in blood around Mr Spence's body and in the shower room beside where he was found. Police also found signs of a “rummage search” in the bedroom, the hard drive for the CCTV had been tampered with and a computer, along with a partial print-out of a pornographic picture, was uncovered on the floor.

The lawyer said the investigation team soon identified McCoy as “the main suspect” and the |inquiry revealed a “large body of evidence” against him, including CCTV footage of him trying to get in through the front door just after 11pm.

A pair of trainers found at the house were also linked to McCoy and the clothes he was wearing when he went back to the hostel the next day proved to belong to Mr Spence.

Defence QC Eugene Grant said there were “voluminous reports” showing that McCoy was suffering from Asperger’s, a form of autism, and that as such there was a “significant impairment” to his reasoning and thinking.

He claimed that on the night of the murder McCoy had been drinking since 5pm, had taken two ecstasy tablets and five lines of cocaine and had gone to the B&B, in effect, seeking shelter when he was refused entry to the Simon Community Hostel.

In imposing the minimum tariff, Lord Justice Girvan said while his medical condition, youth and guilty plea were all mitigating factors, the offence was aggravated by the fact that multiple injuries were inflicted and McCoy “was a burglar”.

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