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Prosecutors bid to lengthen jail term for grandad killer

A teenager jailed for 12 months for killing his grandfather had armed himself with a knife and was prepared to inflict violence on the victim, the Court of Appeal has heard.

Eamonn Coyle was also said to have shown no remorse immediately after stabbing and strangling 78-year-old Francis O'Neill in April 2009 during an apparent robbery gone wrong.

The 18-year-old, formerly of Holmview Terrace in Omagh, was given a year's detention, with a further two years on licence, after he pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

Lawyers for the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) argued yesterday that the sentence was unduly lenient.

Coyle was only 16 when he killed his grandfather at the victim's Brook Valley home for £80 to pay his rent.

He was originally charged with murder before the prosecution accepted his plea to the lesser charge of manslaughter.

During sentencing the judge said while he was certain Coyle never intended to kill his grandfather, or even to seriously harm him, he had gone to his home “for the motive of theft or robbery”.

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Opening the appeal on behalf of the PPS, Gerry Simpson QC said Coyle maintained that he did not strangle his grandfather.

Referring to the assessment that the teenager's plan was to steal money, the barrister pointed out how he owed rent.

“It's clear he was prepared to act violently towards his grandfather to get the money,” Mr Simpson told the court. “He armed himself with the knife at some stage in the course of this.”

Despite dispute about whether there was any intention to use the weapon, Mr Simpson argued that Coyle was holding it during a struggle with the victim.

Defence QC John McCrudden stressed how the prosecution had always accepted the stab wounds may have been accidental.

He claimed that Coyle was at the time a highly immature 16-year-old.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan pointed to Coyle's actions immediately after the killing, which involved taking the money and going drinking with friends.

The judge said: “His initial activity may suggest immaturity, but it certainly doesn't suggest any remorse.”

Coyle later returned to the house and went “berserk”.

Judgment was reserved in the application, with Sir Declan pledging to deliver the verdict as soon as possible.

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