Northern Ireland

Thomas Devlin murder pair's appeal fails

Nigel Brown, now 29, and Gary Taylor, 26, failed to have their convictions overturned
Image caption Nigel Brown, now 29, and Gary Taylor, 26, failed to have their convictions overturned

Two men jailed for murdering schoolboy Thomas Devlin have failed in attempts to have their convictions overturned.

The Court of Appeal rejected all grounds of challenge by Nigel Brown and Gary Taylor to being found guilty of the August 2005 stabbing.

Their teenage victim's mother, Penny Holloway, said the verdict meant the streets were safer with the killers kept behind bars.

She said the decision demonstrated that the judicial system had worked.

"We have lost Thomas and he's never coming back, but nobody else is going to be killed by these two because they are still in prison," she said.

Mrs Holloway's 15-year-old son was knifed to death near his north Belfast home while out buying sweets and drinks.

Thomas suffered multiple stab wounds to the chest, abdomen, right upper arm, hip and face.

His friend, Jonathan McKee was also attacked and stabbed in the stomach.

Attempted murder

Taylor, 26, of Mountcollyer Avenue, Belfast, was ordered to serve a minimum 30 years in prison for carrying out the knifing.

Brown, 29, from Whitewell Road in the city, was jailed for at least 22 years for his part in the murder.

They were both also seeking to appeal convictions for the attempted murder of Jonathan McKee.

The victims had been walking back with a third teenager, Fintan Maguire, from a garage when the killers struck on the Somerton Road.

According to the prosecution the killers left the nearby Mount Vernon estate, where they lived at the time of the stabbing, and launched their deadly assault.

Lawyers for Brown based part of their appeal on a claim that he was unaware a knife attack was to be carried out.

They argued that he should not have been found guilty as a secondary party because he knew nothing of the planned stabbing.

It was also stressed that Brown had decided to halt his assault on Jonathan McKee before any serious injuries were inflicted.

A further point involved disputed allegations that loyalist paramilitaries warned Brown against co-operating with the police investigation.

'Multiple hearsay' evidence

The supposed UVF intervention could have impacted on how the jury dealt with his failure to testify, it was contended.

But Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan, who heard the appeals with Lord Justices Higgins and Girvan, backed the trial judge's handling of the issues.

Taylor based part of his challenge on the admissibility of "multiple hearsay" evidence.

That covered details contained within a confession by Brown that he was involved in the initial stages of the attack, relayed first to his stepfather David Crozier and then on to his then police officer brother Norman Crozier.

His barrister contended that there were a number of inaccuracies within the account of what happened on the night of the murder, including what was said and the descriptions of the actual attack.

Taylor also claimed he was smoking cannabis with friends at the time of the murder.

But Sir Declan pointed out that no evidence was called to support this account, with Taylor giving no evidence himself.

"The absence of a notice of alibi, the fact that Taylor chose not to support the allegation in evidence, and the absence of any evidence to support it are themselves strong indications of the lie."

After rejecting each point of appeal, the judge confirmed: "For the reasons we have given we do not consider that the verdicts were unsafe and the appeals against conviction are dismissed."

Further challenges to the sentences imposed are expected to be heard in January.