Richard Miskelly murderer must serve at least 10 years

Image source, Miskelly family
Image caption,
Richard Miskelly died at the roadside after he was attacked at a house in Newtownards

A man who admitted beating a 24-year-old man to death in Newtownards must serve at least 10 years of his life sentence.

Rhys Magee, 20, from Carrowdore Road in Newtownards, pleaded guilty in January to a charge of murdering Richard Miskelly.

Mr Miskelly died outside a house on the Bangor Road in the town in the early hours of 26 February 2017.

Magee carried out the attack after drinking alcohol and taking ketamine.

After ordering Mr Miskelly to leave the house, Magee followed him down the driveway and subjected him to two separate attacks.

'Pointless death'

Despite the efforts of ambulance crews, Mr Miskelly died without regaining consciousness.

A post mortem examination later revealed death was due to bleeding on the brain caused by blunt force trauma to the head.

Mr Justice Colton told Magee that 10 years was the minimum term he will serve before his case may be considered by the Life Sentence Review Commissioners but that if, and when, released he will be liable to be recalled back to prison if he breaches his parole.

The judge told Magee that the "tragic, pointless and traumatic death" of Mr Miskelly has had a profound impact on his family, whose "lives have been irreparably damaged... and will resonate with them for the rest of their lives".

"I can only hope that the defendant, as he reflects upon his actions which caused Richard's death, will understand the extent of the damage he has caused."

Change of plea

Magee initially denied murder and was due to stand trial in January.

However, his barrister asked that he be re-arraigned and after speaking to confirm his name, Magee replied "guilty" when the charge of murdering Mr Miskelly was put to him again.

Image source, Pacemaker
Image caption,
A forensic tent was set up at the scene of Richard Miskelly's murder

He was also charged with two counts of perverting the course of justice in the aftermath of the fatal beating.

However, counsel for the Crown said that the two charges were subsumed within the murder conviction and asked that they be "left on the book" and not proceeded with.

Mr Miskelly's father, also Richard, said life would never be the same again: "Richard was my only son and we were very close. We were in touch every day. I either saw him in person or talked to him on the phone.

'Bad dream'

"We had a lot of interests in common, including football, cars and motorbikes. He was involved in the Killinchy scrambling club and I had bought Richard a motorbike to fix up and work on, but he never got to find out about it.

"On the morning I was told my son had been murdered, my whole life was turned upside down. It felt like a bad dream. Part of my life is missing and nothing is going to bring Richard back."

Detective Inspector Ian Davis, from the PSNI's Serious Crime Branch, said: "People need to realise that when they socialise with alcohol and drugs that the smallest incident can develop into a tragedy, which has serious life-long implications for not just them, but for others including their own families.

"This has not just impacted the Miskelly family, but other families as well involved in this case."