Man who raped and murdered Belfast pensioner freed from jail to attend funeral
A man who raped and murdered a pensioner was released from prison at the weekend - to attend his father's funeral in south Belfast.
Billy Stevenson (53) - who killed frail Lily Smyth (66) - was seen in handcuffs walking behind the coffin of his father James as it left the family home in Finaghy.
The killer is serving a 25-year minimum sentence for the vicious murder of the pensioner, who was his neighbour on the 11th floor of Moveen House in Finaghy.
Lily Smith was murdered in 1988. It was not until almost 20 years later that police were able to gather strong enough evidence to cage the killer.
In 1988, DNA analysis was in its infancy. But by 2007, DNA analysis had advanced to a level at which blood samples found in the victim's flat were able to be connected to Stevenson.
Scientist Steve Green, whose analysis trapped the killer, said: "Initial tests came back with Lily's blood, but then we had a breakthrough when part of the clothes came back with Stevenson's blood.
"We also found his blood on a hand towel and other items of clothing, including his jacket.
"I've no doubt in my mind that Lily Smyth was a very, very brave woman.
"I really do believe that had Stevenson not cut himself when Lily was defending herself, then this case may have remained unsolved."
In 2008 Stevenson - who had by then built a new life for himself in the village of Ballygally, near Larne - was tried at Belfast Crown Court.
He was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum tariff of 25 years.
The jury of six women and five men rejected Stevenson's claims that he "never, ever killed that lady", and that he "didn't commit no murder".
Stevenson, who sat in the dock shaking his head, saying "no" as the guilty verdict was read out, was told by Mr Justice McLaughlin that he must be aware "the sentence for murder is life imprisonment."
The judge added that while it had "taken 20 years to bring you to this point... justice has been done in my opinion and in the opinion of the jury.
"Those who prey upon and harm the elderly, particularly those at home and alone, must face severe punishment.
"Not content with killing Lily Smyth, you defiled her body."
The judge added: "There was no remorse then, and there is no remorse now."