Northern Ireland

McErlain murder: Christopher Keenan given 12 years

Police officers at the scene n Ballycastle where Anthony McErlain's body was found Image copyright Kevin McAuley
Image caption Anthony McErlain was found dead at a flat in January 2016

A County Antrim man has been sentenced to 12 years for the murder of Anthony McErlain in Ballycastle in 2016.

Christopher Keenan, 36, pleaded guilty in March to the killing of the 49-year-old, who was found dead in a flat.

The court had heard that Keenan, who has 101 previous convictions, had kicked and punched his victim to death.

Keenan, of Broombeg View in Ballycastle, had described the murder scene as a "bloodbath".

In May, Belfast Crown Court also heard that the fatal assault took place following an argument between the victim and Keenan's uncle, John Keenan.

The men, who had all been described as alcoholics, had been drinking together in John Keenan's flat on the day of the murder.

Police said at the time he had suffered a "traumatic and frightening death".

'Fall out'

Father-of-two Mr McErlain, a labourer by trade, was also a grandfather who had worked on the building of the Channel Tunnel.

The prosecution described Mr McErlain as a "much-loved family member".

A defence barrister said Keenan, whose previous convictions included motoring offences, assault and robbery, had shown remorse for the killing and "regrets and completely apologises for what he did".

"In its origins this was a fall out between friends, fall outs were not unusual and were regular," he added.

Fatal assault

A tariff hearing to determine how long Keenan's life sentence would be previously heard that Mr McErlain had sustained 24 separate injuries to his head and neck.

Mr McErlain had another 20 injuries arms and torso, although not all of those were attributable to the assault.

Belfast Crown Court heard that multiple blows had been struck with fists and feet as the victim lay on the ground.

Mr McErlain had suffered lacerations, bruising, brain injuries, a broken neck bone and a broken nose during the assault.

During police interview, Keenan said he had been defending his uncle, but admitting kicking and punching Mr McErlain numerous times in the head and face as he lay on the ground.

He said his uncle assaulted the victim also, and hit him with a ceramic teapot.

Keenan told detectives that the assault had lasted no more than a minute, but had realised that he had gone too far.

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