Belfast Telegraph

‘It was a cold-blooded murder of a defenceless man’: sisters hit out as knife killer is jailed

Sisters Margaret (pictured) and Rose leave Belfast Crown Court after seeing Jackie McDowell sentenced for the brutal slaying of their brother Laurence Shaw
Sisters Margaret (pictured) and Rose leave Belfast Crown Court after seeing Jackie McDowell sentenced for the brutal slaying of their brother Laurence Shaw
Sisters Margaret and Rose (pictured) leave Belfast Crown Court after seeing Jackie McDowell sentenced for the brutal slaying of their brother Laurence Shaw
Jackie McDowell

By Ashleigh McDonald

The sister of a Larne man whose throat was cut yesterday branded the murder "heinous and cowardly" as the killer was told he will spend the next 12 years behind bars.

Co Antrim man Jackie Murray McDowell (40) was handed a life sentence in May this year after he admitted murdering Laurence Shaw in the living room of his Hillmount Gardens home on October 8, 2017.

The 56-year-old former joiner, known as Lornie, was found with knife wounds to his neck and chest after inviting McDowell into his home and socialising with him.

Mr Shaw's grieving family was at Belfast Crown Court to watch McDowell being handed a minimum term of 12 years in jail before he is considered eligible for release.

Outside the court, Mr Shaw's brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews held photographs of him and said they were glad "a monster" has been taken off the streets.

Mr Shaw's sister Margaret revealed they did not want to read a letter their brother's killer wrote to them as they felt it was self-serving and they didn't want to read "lies that have been written down on a piece of paper".

Defence barrister Charles MacCreanor QC had said earlier that McDowell had written two letters - one to the judge and one to the Shaw family - and that he hoped if Mr Shaw's relatives had faith, they would take strength from God.

He said McDowell recognised the pain and hurt his actions have caused the Shaw family, and has expressed "his regret, his shame and his disgust at the devastation he has caused".

But Ms Shaw said: "It was a cold-blooded, brutal murder on a defenceless man in his own home. Laurence was subjected to prolonged, brutal and merciless acts of violence before he met his untimely death. The acts displayed a high level of cruelty and an unprecedented disregard for human life.

"Laurence was well-known and respected in the community, loved and missed by all his family and friends. We are still in a state of shock and disbelief.

"In light of the epidemic surge of knife crimes, hopefully this will deter others from committing a heinous crime such as this and spare other families from the heartache and grief that our family are still suffering."

Ms Shaw thanked the PSNI and the PPS for "bringing this monster to justice" and also thanked the community for their love and support.

Asked if the family were satisfied with the sentence, Ms Shaw said "life should mean life" but no sentence could bring Laurence back.

She said her brother had a big heart, loved his family, and since his death "the chain is broken and we are now missing a link".

She also revealed that now sentence has been passed, the family can start the grieving and healing process.

Laurence's sister Rose said: "I would like to look Jackie McDowell in the eye and ask him, 'Why did you do this to my brother?'"

She added that the family has been "living a life of hell", and that their elderly mother, who has dementia, is not aware of Laurence's murder.

During yesterday's hearing, details of what occurred in Mr Shaw's home emerged for the first time, including an attempt made by McDowell to start a fire in a kitchen cupboard in the aftermath of the murder.

This, Judge David McFarland said, was an indication McDowell tried to destroy the scene after he stabbed Mr Shaw to death.

Before passing sentence, the Belfast Recorder was told by prosecution barrister Jackie Orr than while McDowell didn't enter a guilty plea at the first opportunity, he did accept responsibility when he was arrested two days after the murder.

Ms Orr revealed that Mr Shaw's lifeless body was found in his living room after police received a report on Monday, October 9, 2017.

Officers were told the deceased had been socialising in his flat that weekend with several people, one of whom had been McDowell, in a "drinking session".

Mr Shaw had suffered a severe laceration to his neck, had been stabbed in the chest, and had tissue paper stuffed into his mouth.

A murder investigation was launched and police spoke to a number of witnesses about Mr Shaw's movements that weekend. It soon emerged that McDowell had been in Mr Shaw's house on the morning of Sunday, October 8, and was later taken to hospital after he was struck by a car on the A8 carriageway.

McDowell - who was seen by several witnesses on Sunday afternoon and described as being "out of it" - drove to a petrol station and minutes after leaving the forecourt, he ran out a petrol and was hit by a car.

He was rushed to the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast, and after he was treated for multiple fractures, he was arrested on October 10 on suspicion of murder.

Mr Shaw died between 2.45pm and 4pm on October 8, and a post-mortem revealed he had a "considerable level" of alcohol in his system as well as cocaine and diazepam. When a sample was taken from McDowell, his levels also showed alcohol intake as well as cocaine, ketamine and tramadol.

Items of clothes belonging to McDowell underwent forensic testing, and bore Mr Shaw's blood. When the murder scene was examined, two knives - one with a 16cm blade and the other with a 21.3cm blade - were found in the living room, and were also stained with the victim's blood.

Ms Orr said that while the neck wound would have proved fatal, the tissue stuffed in Mr Shaw's mouth would have resulted in gagging as his tongue was pushed backwards.

The prosecutor said the stab wound to the chest could also have been fatal, but may have been inflicted after Mr Shaw died - and also noted he displayed other minor injuries.

Ms Orr told Judge McFarland that McDowell was interviewed on six occasions, when he "acknowledged" he caused Mr Shaw's death.

He told police he had been drinking and taking drugs, and that when he and Mr Shaw were sitting alone for a period on Sunday, talk turned to depression and suicide. McDowell told police he lifted two knives from the kitchen, and when he returned to the living room Mr Shaw was lying on the sofa and in slurred speech said to McDowell "kill me".

He said he slashed Mr Shaw's throat from left to right, and that Mr Shaw gurgled then fell off the edge of the sofa. McDowell also told police "it didn't seem real" and that he poked him in the chest with either a knife or his hand. McDowell said he then washed his hands in the kitchen and left at around 1pm. Telling police his memory was "hazy", McDowell said he then went to a filling station, and shortly after was struck by a car and hospitalised.

When he was charged with murder, McDowell said: "I am sorry for what I did."

As McDowell was being led into custody by prison staff, Mr Shaw's sister Margaret calmly pointed at him and said: "Do to yourself what you did to my brother. His life is worth more than 12 years."

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