Northern Ireland

Child killer John Clifford also abused three-year-old boy

John Clifford Image copyright PSNI
Image caption John Clifford was already serving a life sentence for murder

A 57-year-old man serving a life sentence for murdering his niece has been handed another jail term after he admitted sexually abusing a young boy.

John Clifford was jailed in 1989 for abducting his eight-year old niece Sue-Ellen before raping and murdering her and dumping her body on a railway line.

He has now been given a further five-year sentence at Belfast Crown Court for offences committed against the boy

Relatives of Sue-Elle called him "scum" after sentence was passed.

"Look at what you have taken away from us. Look at us. Life should mean life. They should lock you up and throw away the key," was shouted from the public gallery.

Two-year period

Prior to this, the court heard Clifford, whose address was given as "no fixed abode", confessed to sexually abusing the boy over a two-year period from 1984 to 1986, when he was aged between three and four.

A prosecutor said the killer would sit the child on his knee, they would watch a video of a train journey and that every time the train went under a bridge, the boy would be forced to perform a sex act on him.

The prosecutor said: "This went on for two years, each time it happened it was the same, including the video."

Clifford initially denied abusing the boy in the south east Antrim area, and a trial commenced last month.

However, after the hearing was opened and before any evidence was presented, Clifford changed his plea and admitted three charges of indecent assault.

In his sentencing remarks, the judge pointed out that had these offences been committed after a change in legislation, Clifford would have been charged with rape and not sexual assault.

Murder conviction

Clifford's conviction for murdering his niece was mentioned during today's sentencing.

The prosecutor told the judge a post mortem revealed she had been sexually assaulted, and that Clifford has since admitted this.

A barrister acting on the killer's behalf said the man before the court today was "not the same man" - he was in the 80s, adding: "He has asked me to apologise profusely for his behaviour to the injured party in this case."

Pointing out that Clifford's change of plea spared his victim from giving evidence at a trial, the barrister said his client was "working hard on his rehabilitation" but said his future was "uncertain".

'Sinister offending'

The judge said Clifford's offending against the young boy was "sinister", and noted there were "certain sexual aspects" regarding his niece's murder, which occurred two years after he abused the boy.

He also told Clifford "the offending by you... has had a significant impact on the child, who is now a man", adding his victim had subsequently been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

In addition to the five-year sentence, Clifford was told he will be both on the Sex Offenders Register, and subject to a Sexual Offences Prevention Order, for life.