A man who stabbed a woman 24 times in the bedroom of his Coleraine home was handed a sentence totalling 15 years on Wednesday.
Gareth Morrow (29), who probation services deemed a “dangerous offender”, was given an extended custodial sentence of 10 years, followed by a period of five years on licence.
As he jailed the defendant for the “horrendous assault”, Judge Philip Gilpin said the knife attack left the woman with life-changing injuries.
The victim, who was 28 at the time, sustained 24 stab wounds to her neck, chest, abdomen and wrists in the October 2019 attack. One of the knife thrusts penetrated her vertebrae and partially severed her spinal cord.
Antrim Crown Court heard the attack only came to an end when Morrow’s father intervened, and that during the incident Morrow told the woman “I’m going to finish you off as I’m going to go to jail anyway”.
The defendant, who appeared via videolink from Maghaberry jail, was initially charged with attempting to murder the woman on October 5, 2019.
He denied this but pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of causing her grievous bodily harm with intent.
He also admitted trying to headbutt a police officer when en route to Coleraine police station following his arrest.
During the sentencing, it emerged that Morrow and the woman met on Facebook in May 2018, and between then and October 2019 met in person around five times.
The victim, who sent Morrow intimate pictures of herself, said that during that period he was “possessive and controlling”.
When she blocked him on Facebook, he threatened to send the images to her family and friends.
She met with him on October 5 in 2019 in the hope that he would delete the pictures and they could end the relationship.
The pair met and had drinks in Coleraine before buying more alcohol and going to Morrow’s home on Hawthorn Terrace.
When in the house, the woman went to Morrow’s bedroom and sent a message to a friend.
Morrow then entered the room and tried to kiss the woman. When she said no and announced she was going home, he produced a knife from under the bed and repeatedly stabbed her.
After the defendant’s father heard the woman’s screams, he tried to disarm his son, at which point the woman fled the room.
In a 999 call heard by the judge, Morrow’s father could be heard pleading with his son to put down the knife and the injured woman could be heard crying and pleading for an ambulance.
When the emergency services arrived at the property, they found the victim badly wounded, covered in blood and frightened she was going to die.
Police who entered the house noticed heavy bloodstains on the walls and carpets and a blood-soaked duvet. They also found two knives.
Morrow told officers at the scene he had stabbed her but after he was arrested gave no-comment responses in an interview.
Judge Gilpin said the woman spent 15 days in hospital being treated for her injuries.
He also told Morrow: “When you attacked her that evening by stabbing her and leaving her with 24 separate stab wounds, you caused her both physical and psychological injury.
“You have left her with weakness and pain in her limbs caused by her spinal cord being partially severed.
“These injuries affect her day-to-day life to the extent that she needs assistance with some of the physical activities associated with daily living.
“What you did to her has affected her sleep, her employment and her housing. In addition, the stab wounds you caused her have left significant scarring.”
Judge Gilpin said that while Morrow had expressed remorse, probation services said he needed to show greater insight into what he had done.
Noting that the defendant grew up in a domestic setting peppered by violence and alcohol abuse, the judge spoke of the defendant’s “relevant and extensive” criminal record of 62 previous convictions.
Revealing he agreed with the assessment that Morrow was a dangerous offender, he said an extended custodial sentence was necessary both to punish him and to protect the public.
Judge Gilpin imposed a 10-year sentence, with five years on licence.
As Morrow has been deemed dangerous, he may not be automatically released on licence after serving half his sentence. Instead, he may spend the full 10 years behind bars, and when released will be on licence for a further five years.
During this extended period, he may be recalled to prison if he breaches the terms of his licence.