Page last updated at 16:22 GMT, Tuesday, 11 May 2010 17:22 UK

Thomas Devlin's killer jailed for minimum of 30 years

Nigel Brown, 27, and Gary Taylor, 23, were found guilty of murder
Nigel Brown, 27, and Gary Taylor, 23, were found guilty of murder

The man who stabbed 15-year-old schoolboy Thomas Devlin to death has been jailed for a minimum of 30 years.

Gary Taylor, 23, Mountcollyer Avenue, Belfast, was convicted of murdering Thomas in August 2005 in what the judge said was "a horrifying, brutal attack".

His accomplice, Nigel Brown, 27, of Whitewell Road, was jailed for 22 years minimum for his part in the killing.

Mr Justice McLaughlin told the Crown Court that it was a attack on "utterly defenceless and harmless boys".

He said it was unprovoked, horrifying, brutal and merciless.

For the attempted murder of Thomas's friend, Jonathan McKee, Brown was sentenced to 15 years and Taylor to 20 years to run concurrently.

The judge said that although the killing wasn't motivated by sectarianism, Taylor and Brown held deeply ingrained sectarian attitudes towards Catholics.

Thomas' parents sat just metres away from his killers and they wept as the pair were sentenced.

The two men did not flinch when the judge passed sentence and they were led away in handcuffs from a courtroom which was silent.

Thomas Devlin
Thomas Devlin died after being stabbed in north Belfast

Thomas Devlin and his friends were attacked as they walked home along the Somerton Road in the north of the city on a summer evening, having bought sweets in a local garage.

The schoolboy tried to run away from his attackers but was pulled off a wall and stabbed nine times with a knife.

The judge said the attack on Thomas was "sustained and deliberate" and was "designed to cause maximum damage".

The assault on his friend, Jonathan McKee was described as "frenzied".

Taylor was 18 years old at the time of the killing and his co-accused Nigel Brown was 22.

At the end of a six-week trial in February, the men were convicted of murdering Thomas and trying to murder his friend Jonathan McKee on 10 August, 2005.

I think justice has been done and it needed to be done for the sake of me and Jonny and Thomas's family especially - for Thomas's memory, it needed to be carried out. I always remember him fondly because he was a very close friend of mine
Fintan Maguire

Referring to the Devlin family's struggle to get the case to trial, Mr Justice McLaughlin said it had proved "incredibly arduous for the families and friends of the victims".

He said their trauma continued.

The judge also appealed to schools, churches, parents and the media to get the message across that a knife inflicts very serious injuries.

Outside the court, Thomas' mother, Penny Holloway said it had been "really difficult" to sit in the same courtroom as her son's killers every day.

She called for an overhaul of NI law on knife crime.

Speaking outside the court, Victims Commissioner Brendan McAllister, said the Devlin family's struggle with the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) was an "indictment of the criminal justice system".

He added that he would be urging the justice minister David Ford to ask the Criminal Justice Inspectorate to carry out a review of the PPS.

Thomas's friend Fintan Maguire who was with him on the evening of the murder, but managed to escape the killers by scrambling over a wall, said: "I think justice has been done and it needed to be done for the sake of me and Jonny and Thomas's family especially - for Thomas's memory, it needed to be carried out."

"I always remember him fondly because he was a very close friend of mine," he said.

Taylor has 19 convictions and Brown has 72, for a variety of offences including assault, affray and riotous behaviour.

Tonight's Spotlight investigation features Thomas Devlin's parents' battle for justice for their son on BBC One, NI, at 2235 BST.



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SEE ALSO
Profile: Thomas Devlin
24 Feb 10 |  Northern Ireland
Call for minister to review PPS
11 May 10 |  Northern Ireland
Devlins 'not informed of rights'
26 Feb 10 |  Northern Ireland
PPS defends role in Devlin case
25 Feb 10 |  Northern Ireland
A mother's fight for justice
24 Feb 10 |  Northern Ireland
Pair given life for Devlin murder
24 Feb 10 |  Northern Ireland


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