sundaylife

| 18.1°C Belfast

Face of a 'child killer'

This is the chilling image that will haunt Eddie McDermott until his dying day — a photo of his brother at the funeral of the younger brother it's claimed he murdered.

Harbouring his deadly secret, the then-15-year-old smirks as he stands by the funeral car in Roselawn at the graveside of their brother Brian (10).

Beside him is a grief-stricken Eddie (19). But what he didn't know at the time — 34 years ago — was that Billy was responsible for the gruesome murder of his sibling, an astonishing claim made in an English courtroom last week.

The court, in Worcester, was told that McDermott confided in ex-wife Sarah MacLeod that he killed Brian.

McDermott, who has convictions for violent offences, is serving four months in jail for sending Sarah abusive and threatening text messages.

In a statement read out in court she said: "Mr McDermott then confided in me that he had murdered his brother. I then told police."

Following the allegation cops say the case will now be re-examined by the PSNI Retrospective Murder Review Unit.

In an exclusive interview with Sunday Life from his home in England, Eddie last night said he was turning his back on his crazed brother. He told us: " I totally disown Billy as any brother of mine. He's evil, depraved — a very dangerous, violent thug and an out-and-out bully. I believe he murdered Brian. I believe the death penalty should be introduced for child-killers like him.

"If hanging was an option, that would be my choice.

"I never want to see him or meet him or talk to him again.

"I'll never forgive him for taking Brian from us."

The happy-go-lucky youngster was savagely butchered in a sickening attack that ranks as one of Ulster's most depraved murders.

Both his legs and an arm had been hacked off and an attempt was made to incinerate the headless torso, burning any remaining features beyond recog nition.

What was left of his body was stuffed into a hessian bag and retrieved from the River Lagan almost a week later.

Eddie, whose family are originally from east Belfast, can pinpoint the exact moment he first became suspicious about Billy's alleged involvement in the killing.

Several years ago both brothers had been contacted via email by an Ulster writer keen to publish a book on the harrowing 1973 murder.

"It was 2003, at around the time when the PSNI had reopened an investigation into Brian's murder," said Eddie.

"Billy phoned me to find out what I thought about the book and I said I had no real objections — however he had a very different response. He was so adamant that the story wouldn't be published that he even contacted his local MP asking could he stop it.

"As the weeks went on his phonecalls to me were becoming more and more manic.

"His temper became frayed, he was nervous and panicking and seemed quite frightened.

He was increasingly irritable and aggressive.

"He kept asking had the police contacted me. But I told him nothing as I was then starting to become suspicious.

"I phoned the PSNI to let them know exactly what was going on."

After several weeks Eddie was so frustrated by his brother's outbursts that he asked him if he had killed Brian.

"He immediately denied it and told me I didn't know what was going on inside his head.

"He then claimed he had slashed his wrists and the blood was dripping onto the ground.

"I remember him saying he hoped his death would be on my conscience. I have to admit that at that point I did wish him dead.

"This was the type of attention-seeking behaviour he was always up to and I don't believe he had harmed himself in any way."

Eddie revealed that Billy had been questioned by cops twice about Brian's murder, the first time in 1976.

"Billy had been beating my mum — something I wasn't aware of at the time and something that still saddens me greatly.

"It got to the stage when she could take it no more and called the police, who arrested him for assault.

"I believe she also had her own suspicions about his involvement in Brian's murder and told this to police.

"I often wonder if she really did know something, but held back to protect her son.

"My dear old mum passed away in 2004 and I'm glad she's not alive to hear all this.

"But I think she'll be quite happy lying in her grave now, unaware of exactly what her thug of a son is accused of doing.

"It's my understanding that Billy confessed to the killing in 1976 but it seems there wasn't enough evidence to convict him."

The second time Billy was hauled in for questioning was in March 2004, when he was flown over from his home in England to face cops in Ulster.

"I know the police have not confirmed the man they were holding was Billy, but I will confirm that now.

"He was in custody for several days and then released without charge."

Although Eddie was nine years older than Brian, the pair were very close.

The youngster loved it when he came home on leave from the Army.

He vividly recalls what happened the night before Brian disappeared from Ormeau Park — and still wonders if that influenced Billy's barbaric be haviour.

"I was on a weekend leave and Brian was all over me on the Saturday evening, just the way any excited kid gets on when they haven't seen someone for a while.

"But Billy didn't like him getting so much attention and started to hit him. I then gave him (Billy) a bit of a slap to teach him a lesson.

"But I believe he became so angry that he wanted to get his own back, and the next day met up with Brian in the park.

"I believe he pushed him out of a tree and the impact of the fall caused his death.

"Billy got so frightened he then had to get rid of the body and that's when the horror story began."

As a child, Eddie said his brutal brother was "a bit of a roughneck" who was prone to getting into trouble.

And he recalled how he showed no emotion at Brian's funeral, where he laughed and sniggered while the rest of the family fell to pieces.

"When I look back my one deep regret is that I wasn't at home in the years following the murder.

"Maybe the aftermath would have given clues to Billy's involvement in Brian's death and his killer brought to justice."

preynolds@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Belfast Telegraph