Father-of-nine suffered 52 stab wounds, many of them inflicted as he lay dying
After sentencing the three men convicted of the killing of Edward Meenan, Judge Donna McColgan QC thanked the members of the jury for presiding over a “harrowing and difficult case” and excused them from further service for life.
There will have been relief at that news. The details of the killing of Mr Meenan emerged over a seven-week trial earlier this year, often in graphic detail. It is something most people would not wish to sit through again.
For Mr Meenan’s family, those details will always be with them. They will go through them every day, just as they sat through every day of the often upsetting trial.
It was, in the words of Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell, a depraved and savage murder.
The battered and bloodied body of Mr Meenan, a 52-year-old father-of-nine, was discovered dumped in an alleyway on the morning of Sunday, November 25, 2018.
After he was beaten and stabbed more than 50 times, Mr Meenan was stripped to his underwear and dumped on Creggan Street in the city. A local resident who came across his body raised the alarm at 3.30am.
It was, as Judge McColgan said as she handed down the sentences, nothing less than a “brutal and savage” attack in which the killers used sewer rods, a baseball bat and a knife.
Many of the stab wounds were inflicted as Mr Meenan lay helpless and dying. He suffered 52 stab wounds and 94 blunt force injuries, including a shattered nose and fractures to both lower legs.
After the police issued an appeal for information about the murder, their attention came to focus on a property known in the area as a party house.
Sean Rodgers, of no fixed abode; Ryan Walters, from Station Road in Crossgar; and Derek Creswell, of Mullaghmore Drive in Omagh, were all arrested in the aftermath of the murder. All three later admitted that they had been in the house where the ultimately fatal attack started.
A fourth person, Sinead White, from St Brecan’s Park in Derry, and a niece of Mr Meenan was charged with withholding information.
During the seven-week trial, the court was told how the deceased and his friend William McConnell arrived at the rear of a property in the Creggan Street area of Derry in the early hours of that Sunday morning. Both were wearing balaclavas and gloves and carrying sewer rods.
After three people in the property saw the two masked men at the back door, a confrontation broke out in the garden.
After entering the rear yard, the pair were seen by Rodgers, Creswell and Walters, who were drinking in the kitchen.
The trio burst out the back, and Rodgers engaged in an attack on Mr Meenan, while the other two men engaged with Mr McConnell.
While Mr McConnell managed to flee the scene after being attacked with a bat, Mr Meenan was beaten in an attack later described as “brutal and savage”. There was to be no escape.
The court was told that in the immediate aftermath of the murder, the men walked the short distance from the Creggan Street address to Rodgers’ mother’s home on Little Diamond.
A fire was set at the rear of the property to burn the blood-stained clothes of both Mr Meenan and Rodgers.
During their trial, all three accepted being at the property when the assault started, though they each initially denied involvement in the killing.
The trio denied wounding Mr McConnell, while Creswell and Walters denied perverting the course of justice by burning evidence including bloodied clothing in the aftermath of the murder — a charge admitted by Rodgers.
During the third week of the hearing, Creswell’s barrister Gavan Duffy QC asked his client be re-arraigned, after which he admitted all three charges. As the trial progressed, both Rodgers and Walters took to the witness stand, with each man providing an account of what happened to the jury.
Rodgers claimed that after seeing masked men at the back door, he launched a counter-attack because he feared they were members of the IRA.
The accused said he attacked Mr Meenan with his feet and fists, but he denied using weapons and denied stabbing the deceased. Rodgers also denied involvement in the attack on Mr McConnell.
The three will now serve a minimum of 37 years in jail between them. Whyte, meanwhile, was placed on probation for three years on a charge of withholding information.
Before the jury passed its verdict, Judge Donna McColgan QC said that while she appreciated the case was “very emotional for everyone”, she wanted the “utmost decorum” in her courtroom.
The judge then thanked the jury, telling them: “You have possibly been one of the most attentive juries I have ever come across, either in my career at the Bar or on the bench.”
As Rodgers was being taken into custody, the Meenan family applauded, and the murderer reacted by turning around and giving them the finger.