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Last Updated: Friday, 20 January 2006, 16:40 GMT
Ex-prisoner admits spade killing
Murder scene
Adrian Thompson was murdered on New Year's Day, 2004
A former paramilitary prisoner, freed under the Good Friday Agreement, has been jailed for life after beating a man to death with a spade.

Ralph Phillips, 40, and from Leamount Park in Banbridge, admitted murdering Adrian Thompson, 29, on New Year's day in 2004.

Dungannon Crown Court heard Phillips and Rodney Clarke, 34, beat him with spades after a row.

Clarke, also from Leamount Park, was also sentenced to life.

The court heard the duo encountered Mr Thompson as he was walking home at about 0430 GMT.

Phillips sent his girlfriend, Tracey Marshall, 26, to fetch a baseball bat from their nearby home. He then struck Mr Thompson with the bat.

The court was told, however, that Mr Thompson had been able to get to his feet and started to walk off.

'Unjustified and underhand'

Philips and Clarke then grabbed two spades from a garden and began to beat Mr Thompson.

After the assault, they walked off with the spades over their shoulders.

Sentencing both men to life, the judge, Mr Justice Deeney, said Mr Thompson had been the victim of an "unjustified and underhand act of vicious and gratuitous violence".

Phillips' girlfriend pleaded guilty to affray, assault and having an offensive weapon.

She was given an 18-month suspended sentence.

Clarke's girlfriend, Joanne McMullen, 20, also of Leamount Park, has pleaded guilty to similar charges and will be sentenced next month.

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