Sadistic killer Steven Brown was jailed for life today for the horrific double murder of two teenage friends.
The 28-year-old, also known as Steven Revels, was told he would serve a minimum of 30 years over the frenzied knife attack on Andrew Robb (19) and David McIlwaine (18) that shocked Northern Ireland.
The badly-mutilated bodies of the two teenagers were discovered on an isolated country road close to Tandragee, Co Armagh in February 2000.
They were found lying on the blood-spattered road with their throats cut and severe stab wounds to their stomachs.
Brown, from Castle Place, Castlecaulfield, was convicted of the barbaric attack at Belfast Crown Court last month.
Sentencing Brown today Mr Justice Gillen said that the murders were “among the most gruesome of the past 40 years”.
He added: “They represent unbridled mindless violence and a total disregard for the value and dignity of human life.”
The judge went on to say that the killings had brought “unimaginable anguish and grief” for the families of the two victims.
In court today dressed in a beige tracksuit top and white T-shirt, with a shaved head and goatee beard, Brown showed little emotion as legal representatives discussed gruesome details of the brutal killing.
He sat staring straight ahead, at times biting his lip and dropping his head towards the ground.
The public gallery was packed with family members of both victims, Mrs Robb looking particularly drawn.
Along with ‘supergrass’ Mark Burcombe and Noel Dillon, who has since killed himself, the friends had been drinking in Brown’s Tandragee flat when Andrew spoke derogatorily about UVF commander Richard Jameson, who had been gunned down by the LVF two weeks earlier.
Incensed by the comment about his friend, Brown hatched his plan to slaughter the teenagers and after driving them to the isolated Druminure Road just outside the town on the pretence of looking for a drugs party, butchered them with a large knife.
Burcombe, who was once a co-accused of Brown but turned ‘Queen’s evidence’, recounted to the trial how he saw Brown repeatedly drive the knife into David McIlwaine as he lay wheezing and prone on the ground.
Urging the judge to consider age and background as mitigating factors in sentencing, defence barrister John McCrudden QC said: “This is a very damaged young man. It is very rare that one deals with a person whose father was a murderer but whose father murdered his mother.” He also alleged his client had been vulnerable in that he had been under the influence of a “horrific” older man (Dillon) and was drunk.
Judge Gillen said: “Once I accept age as a mitigating factor then that opens up his background. Not only is he a 19-year-old man but he is a 19-year-old man damaged by his parents.”
Mr McCrudden also claimed: “There is no evidence that the killing of Mr McIlwaine was planned. There is no evidence that Mr Brown knew until the very last moment that a murder had been planned by Dillon.
“Dillon was almost two times the age of the accused. We will never know that Mr Brown knew there was a murder intended of Mr Robb until the last moments he then became involved in that murder,” he told the court.
In a website statement posted ahead of the hearing, David McIlwaine’s father Paul said: “We are due back in court this week to hear the tariff set by judge Gillen. We expect a severe and lengthy penalty, so fingers crossed.”