Belfast Telegraph

Robert Flowerday murder: Michael Owens given 16-year jail term for brutal killing of retired schoolteacher

Warning: Some readers may find details in this report distressing

Michael Owens appearing at an earlier hearing at Ballymena Court
Michael Owens appearing at an earlier hearing at Ballymena Court

By Ashleigh McDonald

A 35-year old man who murdered a retired schoolteacher in his Crumlin home in a "vicious assault" will spend the next 16-and-a-half years in jail before he is considered eligible for release.

Branding the tariff as "right and appropriate", Mr Justice Colton said the January 2018 murder of 64-year old Robert Flowerday involved "prolonged and repeated violent assaults on a defenceless man in his own home."

Michael Owens initially denied murdering Mr Flowerday, but later confessed to the killing and said the motivation was burglary as he owed a significant amount of money due to his abuse of cocaine.

After targeting Mr Flowerday in his Mill Road home on the outskirts of the Co Antrim village on January 27, 2018, Owens battered the pensioner with an axe, claw hammer and poker.

He used a plastic bag as a makeshift balaclava and received a call from a friend during the fatal incident. The caller could hear sobbing in the background and was told by Owens "F*** off, I'm doing a job. Leave me alone."

During today's sentencing, Mr Justice Colton noted the multiple injuries inflicted in the fatal attack which included 18 separate lacerations to his scalp, face and neck.

Mr Flowerday's jaw and nose were broken, his skull was fractured in five different places, and the extensive wounds to his hands, wrists and arms suggested he tried to defend himself.

Robert Flowerday
Robert Flowerday

The Judge also noted the loss suffered not just by his loving family, but also the schoolchildren he taught and the Crumlin community as a whole.

Mr Justice Colton said that after reading victim impact statements, it was clear just how much of a devastating impact Mr Flowerday's murder has had on his family and friends.

The Judge said: "What emerged from these victim impact statements is a brother who was dearly loved and valued. That love and value was not confined to family members.

"It is clear from demonstrations of support from members of the community living in the Crumlin area that they too were shocked and appalled at Robert's murder.

"They have expressed their support for the family in very public ways, through vigils and personal demonstrations of sympathy and support. Former students have taken to social media to express their appreciation for Mr Flowerday.

"The picture that emerges is of a man who lived a blameless and worthy life. He was someone who made a valuable contribution to the community which is understandably shocked and appalled at his brutal death."

Family members of Robert Flowerday including Alan (Brother) and Pat (Sister) speak to the media after Michael Gerard Owens was given 16-year minimum jail term for the murder of Robert Flowerday.
Photo Pacemaker Press
Family members of Robert Flowerday including Alan (Brother) and Pat (Sister) speak to the media after Michael Gerard Owens was given 16-year minimum jail term for the murder of Robert Flowerday. Photo Pacemaker Press

Turning to Owens, Mr Justice Colton said Mr Flowerday's death appears to have occurred due to a "mean attempt to steal money by entering the deceased's house" which then escalated into a "vicious assault as the deceased sought to protect his property and defend himself."

Saying the only mitigating factor was Owens guilty plea, Mr Justice Colton said the minimum time he will have to spend in custody before he is considered eligible for release by the Paroles Commission was 16 years and six months.

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