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Judge sets 12-year minimum jail term for Co Antrim man over 'frenzied' killing


Murdered: Anthony McErlane

Murdered: Anthony McErlane

Murdered: Anthony McErlane

A Co Antrim man has been sentenced to a minimum of 12 years in jail without parole for what a judge described as a "senseless, vicious, sustained and frenzied'' murder.

Christopher Keenan (36), of Broombeg View, Ballycastle, pleaded guilty in March this year to the murder of labourer Anthony McErlane in Ballycastle more than two years ago and is currently serving a mandatory life sentence.

Giving his tariff ruling yesterday at Antrim Crown Court, sitting in Belfast, Mr Justice Colton said the family of Mr McErlane had described him as a "much loved and much missed brother, father and grandfather''.

The judge said that although the defendant had expressed remorse for the murder, Mr McErlane's family "do not believe he has demonstrated remorse''.

The prosecution had told a tariff hearing last week that Mr McErlane had died as a result of "gratuitous and extensive violence'' in a drunken fight, during which he sustained more than 40 injuries.

Prosecution counsel Jackie Orr said that on January 28, 2016, the 48-year-old victim had been drinking with Keenan and his uncle John Keenan at the latter's flat in Broombeg view.

She said Mr McErlane was seen "jumping out of a window of the flat'' and went to a nearby house where a woman applied Germolene to a head wound he had sustained during an argument with the Keenans who had all been drinking heavily. The court was told Mr McErlane left the house and went back to John Keenan's flat.

Ms Orr said Mr McErlane had been subjected to "gratuitous and extensive violence''.

Another aggravating factor was Keenan's lengthy criminal record of 100 convictions, including violent assault, robbery, hijacking, threats to kill and 15 assaults on police.

Defence counsel John McCrudden QC said Christopher Keenan "regrets and completely apologises for what he did'', but accepted his apology "may not be well received'' by the victim's family.

He argued that Keenan should be given considerable credit for his guilty plea, given that he had made admissions at police interview.

Mr Justice Colton told the court yesterday that he was giving Christopher Keenan a 25% reduction on his tariff for his guilty plea.

John Keenan had also been charged with Mr McErlane's murder, but the court had previously ruled that based on the evidence presented by the prosecution, he had "no case to answer''.

Belfast Telegraph