Northern Ireland man attacked Dale Farm van of wife's lover with hammer
A man who drove more than 30 miles to attack his wife's lover's Dale Farm work van with a hammer has narrowly escaped going to jail.
Co Antrim man Gary Hillan carried out the hammer attack after finding out his wife had been carrying on the affair during their entire marriage.
Craigavon Crown Court Judge Patrick Lynch QC told 38-year-old Hillan he was suspending the two-year jail term for three years because of his guilty plea, clear record and "personal circumstances" but warned him to "stay clear of trouble".
Also ordering Hillan to pay £780 for the damage he caused to the van, the judge said "the custody threshold has got to be passed" given the nature of the offences.
"This is just a somewhat tragic case, the retelling of an old story of the cuckolded seeking revenge on the cuckold," said Judge Lynch.
At an earlier hearing Hillan, from Knockcairn Lodge, Dundrod, Crumlin, pleaded guilty to wounding Brian Telford on February 19 this year and causing criminal damage to a Ford Transit van which belonged to Dale Farm.
On Friday, the court heard that Mr Telford was forced to stop his van after Hillan pulled across him and smashed the front and side windows of the Ford Transit with a claw hammer.
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A prosecuting said Mr Telford got out of the van and confronted Hillan but it was during that confrontation that a "scuffle" ensued between the two men and the victim was left with a "deep cut to his forehead" as well as defensive strike marks to his right forearm.
She said while Mr Telford initially gave a police statement, he later retracted that and steadfastly refused to come to court, saying he "did not want to be asked about his private life".
Previous courts heard how in that statement, he claimed that during the assault Hillan told him "I'm going to do you in" and "I'm going to burn your house with you all in it".
And as was he leaving the scene, Hillan glared and shouted: "It's not over."
When questioned by police, Hillan confessed to what he had done.
Lodging an impassioned plea in mitigation, defence counsel Damien Halleron told Judge Lynch: "I think it's not unfair to categorise this case as a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions."
"This case has toxic features of love, hate, angst and jealousy," said the lawyer, adding that what was disclosed to Hillan by his wife was "serial infidelity that had lasted for the entirety of the marriage".
His wife's revelations came in November last year and, from then to the incident, "those matters ruminated with him" and having found out where Mr Telford lives, Hillan decided to drive the 35 miles from his home to Loughgall "to smash windows of the complainant's property, not to cause harm to him," submitted Mr Halleron.
Judge Lynch said Mr Telford had written a letter stating: "I don't wish for Gary Hillan to serve any custodial sentence as a result of this assault."
Hillan spent six days in jail before he was granted bail and the defence lawyer described that as "a very salutary lesson for a man who had never been to prison in his life".
Mr Halleron submitted it was clear that Hillan was not a violent man, nor was there any suggestion he was aggressive or engaged in domestic violence.
"The thrust of the plea to put before you is that every single party in this case has suffered ... this has been a nightmare for Mr and Mrs Hillan."
Sentencing Hillan, Judge Lynch said the offence was aggravated by the fact that he had armed himself and described his actions as that of a "slow-burning fuse" in that it was three months since he discovered his wife's infidelity to the incident: "It was not spontaneous."