A devastated mother has told how she can finally grieve properly for her son after two men were convicted of assaulting him months before he died in an unrelated tragedy.
Barbara Murray (53) pledged to her son Connor on his death bed in 2018 that she would get justice for the earlier attack.
Mr Murray, a former pupil of Larne Grammar, died six days after being pulled from the town's Inver River in May 2018. He had accidentally fallen into the fast-flowing water.
Ms Murray told how in September 2017 Connor was left with extensive injuries after being targeted in a brutal attack and had lived in extreme pain every day.
He sustained multiple facial fractures, including to his cheekbones, eye socket and nose, as well as breaks to the jaw, which required a steel plate, broken ribs and internal bleeding.
Jordan Brown from Hillview Road in Carrickfergus was later charged in connection with the attack along with Joel Hawthorne from Bardic Drive in Larne. Both men are 23.
Ms Murray had to ask for the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) to review its decision not to proceed with the prosecution of Brown and Hawthorne in June 2018.
At the time the PPS had told the grieving mother in a letter that the case no longer met the "test for prosecution" following Connor's death.
The PPS said that it had been "necessary" to review the case after his passing.
The decision, following a campaign by Ms Murray, was subsequently reversed and Brown and Hawthorne had been due to stand trial this March. However, on the day the jury was due to be sworn in the pair pleaded guilty.
On Friday at Antrim Crown Court, sitting at Laganside, Hawthorne was convicted of a charge of grievous bodily harm (GBH) and was sentenced to two years - one in custody and one on licence. Brown, who was convicted of possessing a weapon with intent and a charge of GBH, received a prison sentence of 18 months for each offence to run concurrently, suspended for two years.
Now the pair have been convicted, Ms Murray told the Belfast Telegraph that she is relieved her nearly three-year "struggle" is over.
She said it had been an emotional experience watching the hearing via video-link.
"It's done. These boys have to live with this," she said.
Branding the pair "complete and utter scum", she added: "It took medics six hours to rebuild Connor's face.
"He would have definitely defended himself, but he wasn't a fighter.
"I just want to start to grieve for my son now. I haven't had the chance to.
"It's going to be tough facing something I should have dealt with two years ago."
She said Connor's loss had been deeply felt by the entire family - his grandparents Jim and Diana, who are in their 70s, and his sister Lauren (28), whose baby son Ezra never got to meet his uncle.
"Lauren was always protective of Connor," she explained.
"She's two-and-a-half years older than him and she always looked after him. She misses Connor terribly.
"His grandmother can't stop crying when she mentions his name." Paying tribute to her son, she described him as an "amazing" person. "He could make an entire room laugh when he was a toddler," she added.
"He was a Liverpool fan, and was very into football. He was my baby, spoilt rotten and because of his autism Connor took things literally, which caused a huge amount of hilarity.
"I could write a book about Connor and his capers.
"There was never a dull moment, he had a fantastic sense of humour, he was so funny."