Northern Ireland

Kenneth Cowan jailed for 10 years for murdering friend

Brian Anthony Burke Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Brian Anthony Burke was 29 years old when he was murdered in April last year

A man has been told he must serve at least 10 years in jail for the murder of his friend at a house in east Belfast.

Kenneth Cowan, 30, of Titania Street, pleaded guilty to the murder of Brian Anthony Burke in April 2018.

The judge imposed a life sentence, but noted Cowan had expressed "genuine remorse".

Belfast Crown Court was told Cowan lost his temper when Mr Burke, 29, got the better of him in a game of "horseplay".

Cowan had received a life sentence after pleading guilty to the murder in December.

At a tariff hearing on Friday a minimum 10-year prison term was fixed before he can be considered for parole.

'Red mist' descended

During the trial the court was told the pair were at a mutual friend's house in Titania Street on 8 April 2018 "listening to music, drinking beer and in the case of Cowan smoking cannabis" when an argument and "horseplay" started.

Image caption Brian Anthony Burke was stabbed at a house in Titania Street

Cowan armed himself with a knife after a "red mist" descended.

A senior prosecution lawyer said Cowan stabbed Mr Burke in the chest with a 12cm knife with "moderate force''.

The knife pierced a lung then entered the heart.

Cowan's defence counsel said that he "wished he could undo his actions of that night'' and had expressed "genuine remorse'' for causing the death of his friend.

Victim in 'prime of life'

The judge said: "This was a senseless taking of life of a young man and it is natural that family and friends will struggle to rationalise what has happened.''

Image copyright PSNI
Image caption The handle of the knife used to attack Brian Burke - the blade broke off during the stabbing

Det Ch Insp Peter McKenna said it was a "brutal murder" of a "young man in the prime of his life".

"Brian should have been safe enjoying his evening with friends but Kenneth lost his temper and Brian paid the price for this with his life.

"His mum Deena and two brothers Michael and John have been left devastated by the murder," he said.

In imposing the tariff, the judge said it was accepted that Cowan did not intend to kill his friend, but rather cause him serious injury, and that he appeared before the court with a very limited criminal record.

However, he added that those who "arm themselves with weapons" in a fight "must expect to receive additional punishment".

"The impact of the crime on the victim's family, the consumption of alcohol and drugs and the use of a knife are aggravating factors. It is not a case of Cowan carrying a knife and then using it.

"The use of weapons, particularly knives, will always significantly increase the risk of serious or fatal injury," he said.

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