Belfast Telegraph

Belfast killer doctor Declan O'Neill faces years behind bars as community still in shock two years on from murder

Killer: Declan Kevin O’Neill
Killer: Declan Kevin O’Neill

By Ralph Hewitt and Allan Preston

A former doctor who was expected to help people will now be spending his life behind bars after pleading guilty to the murder of his mother.

Declan Kevin O'Neill tearfully admitted his guilt at Belfast Crown Court yesterday after denying the murder of his mother Anne O'Neill for two years.

Mrs O'Neill, a retired district nurse, was found with head injuries in the garden of her elderly parents' home at Ardmore Avenue in Finaghy on Saturday October 21, 2017.

Just seven months before her death, her 29-year-old son posted a picture of the pair on his Instagram account, and declared how much he loved his mother.

"I give off constantly about her and sometimes I don't know how I put up with her, but I wouldn't swap her for the world," wrote O'Neill, from Malone Avenue in south Belfast.

"I'm lucky to have my mum. She was mum and dad to me. She has supported me in all my decisions and life choices. Advised me when she knew something wasn't going to work out. And the obligatory I told you so.

"I have never wanted for anything, but then again I have all that I needed. Love you Mum. #iloveyoumum #motherandson #mothersday #motherforsale".

However, the vast majority of O'Neill's 339 Instagram posts were pictures of himself.

Posing with the same facial expression in almost all of the pictures, O'Neill took the photos to show off both his personal and professional life.

It now appears that his former partner has cut ties with the murderer and moved on with his life.

O'Neill had a promising future ahead of him as he was working as a locum at Belfast Trust hospitals.

However, his medical licence was suspended by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service in November 2017 after he was arrested on suspicion of his mother's murder.

At the time, a GMC spokeswoman said in a statement: "Dr O'Neill is interim suspended - he was suspended following a hearing of the Interim Orders Tribunal (IOT) at the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) in Manchester on November 10, 2017.

"An interim orders tribunal can suspend or restrict a doctor's practice while an investigation continues, if it is necessary for the protection of the public, or otherwise be in the public interest or in the interests of the doctor.

"Our fitness to practise investigation continues.

"Where there are criminal proceedings we would always wait for these to conclude before completing our own investigation."

On the street on which the retired nurse was killed, Ardmore Avenue in Finaghy, neighbours of Mrs O'Neill's parents - George and Clare Burleigh - extended their sympathies yesterday evening.

Many in the quiet residential area remain in a state of disbelief over the shocking events of almost two years ago.

"I just think the whole thing has been a tragedy for the family and also for the young man who pleaded guilty," one man said.

"And you can't forget as well how it must feel for the grandparents too - that it's their grandson that's responsible for the loss of their daughter."

Another man said the community had been left heartbroken by the sudden nature of Ms O'Neill's death. He added: "All I can say is that our thoughts are with the family, we really do sympathise with them."

A close family friend of the victim's parents said she welcomed the fact that they would no longer be forced to endure the stress of witnessing a drawn out murder trial.

"It's been a difficult two years for everyone and this is yet another difficult day for the family," she said.

"I know the parents well. The only positive about today for them will be that they're spared a trial, but it's still an incredibly hard thing for them to have to hear.

"The fact that it's their grandson is really a horrendous thing for them as well.

"The family have definitely been in the thoughts of everyone here on the street throughout everything as it is a very close community."

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