Belfast Telegraph

Stephen Cahoon: He could run, but he couldn't hide

Editor's Viewpoint

The long arm of the law has finally caught up with Stephen Cahoon, a man whose crime-laden past contains some of the most brutal attacks imaginable on defenceless women, including the murder of a former partner who was pregnant with his child.

Described by the police as a dangerous sexual predator, he fled from Northern Ireland after killing Jean Quigley, a 30-year-old mother-of-four, in 2008, leaving her body to be discovered by her horrified mother.

He quickly discovered that he could run but he couldn't hide, being arrested in Donegal. He made legal history by opting to be tried in the Republic for the crime under cross-border legislation.

Even then, justice was slow to catch up with him. His first trial resulted in a hung jury, and it was three years later in 2012 before he was convicted and sentenced to life in jail. That verdict was quashed in March this year on a technicality and a retrial ordered. Yesterday he was found guilty of the murder again.

He was fortunate not to face similar charges before. He had launched savage attacks on two other women in the past. One was the mother of his child whom he beat and tried to strangle. She described him as a maniac.

A third victim of his brutality was a teenager who was beaten so badly about the head that she was almost unrecognisable. He left her for dead in a field.

For those crimes he was got a paltry three-year jail term, which was increased to five years and three months after a campaign by our sister paper Sunday Life led to the Attorney General appealing the original sentence.

Cahoon's brutality towards women is shocking, and while hindsight is always a perfect science, the mother of Jean Quigley must wonder if more could have been done to protect her daughter.

Certainly, he could not have been said to have faced the full rigour of the law for his previous crimes. These showed a man who could assault women without any mercy and without any heed to the consequences of his actions. He even tried to weasel his way out of the murder charge by pretending Ms Quigley's death was a crime of passion and unintended.

Crimes against women - like those against children - are among the most vile and it is up to the justice system to ensure that the full rigour of the law is brought to bear on those who prey on the vulnerable to reflect the gravity of their crimes.

Belfast Telegraph


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