Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: The family of slain schoolteacher is right to question if killer's 16-year sentence is fitting for such an evil crime

The horrific story on the murder of retired teacher Robert Flowerday and the devastating effect on his family makes for disturbing reading
The horrific story on the murder of retired teacher Robert Flowerday and the devastating effect on his family makes for disturbing reading

Editor's Viewpoint

The horrific story on the murder of retired teacher Robert Flowerday and the devastating effect on his family makes for disturbing reading.

Mr Flowerday, who was a pillar of the community in Crumlin, was attacked by Michael Gerard Owens in January 2018. He was murdered in his own home, which has to be the ultimate violation.

He was beaten over a prolonged period with a hatchet, a poker and a hammer. He suffered 18 lacerations to his scalp, face and neck, and 20 bruises on his hands, arms, legs and torso. His nose and jaw were also broken.

The killer was on drink and drugs, and after the murder he went for a takeaway. The cold brutality of such behaviour beggars belief.

Robert Flowerday's death was a grievous loss to his family, but also to people in the Crumlin area where he helped to tutor children, and as his brother Alan pointed out "crossing communities and bringing people together".

His killer was given a minimum 16-and-a-half year sentence, but Mr Flowerday's family firmly believes it is too lenient.

Alan Flowerday said: "This is not justice for taking our brother's life so cruelly. Life should mean life."

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Alan described the family's continuing hurt: "It has drained us each of zest for life, the stress has taken its toll on us all and has contributed to and exacerbated the health of our other two brothers.

"We are the victims of our brother's murder, suffering the loss, feeling the agony, the torture to which Robert was subjected, and then as taxpayers footing the bill for his legal aid and accommodation in Maghaberry."

The so-called life sentences are reserved for the most heinous of crimes, and judges are bound by sentencing guidelines, but it is entirely legitimate for Mr Flowerday's family to ask how much more heinous a crime would have to be to merit a life sentence.

Long imprisonment of the kind given to Owens will impose its own penalty, but he will still be able to eke out a life behind bars, and at the age of 35 he may have the possibility of release.

This is more than his victim will be able to do, and his family will carry the burden of his senseless, violent murder for years to come. They face the daunting prospect of trying to piece their respective lives together again. It is no wonder that in the wake of such suffering and such a sentence on the perpetrator, Mr Flowerday's family is questioning the whole meaning of "justice".

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