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Belfast man (41) pleads guilty after DNA match links him to paramilitary shooting

Patrick O'Neill had been due to go on trial at Belfast Crown Court for a paramilitary style shooting in 2010 when he changed his plea
Staff Reporter

A NORTH Belfast man, who pleaded guilty to a paramilitary style shooting, was caught after an arrest for a domestic incident last year resulted in his DNA being matched to a sample recovered from the scene of the 2010 attack.

Patrick Joseph O'Neill was remanded back into custody on Tuesday ahead of sentencing for the attack six years ago that left convicted sex offender Darren Murdoch with life changing injuries.

The 41-year-old from the New Lodge area of Belfast, but whose address was given as 'no fixed abode', was arrested in 2015 after his DNA was matched to a blood sample taken from the scene of the shooting.

Murdoch, who served a prison sentence for raping a woman in her home on St Stephen’s Day 2001, had only been released from prison when masked men entered a house at Brompton Park in Ardoyne and shot him five times in the abdomen, groin and leg areas.

It was reported at the time that doctors were unable to save the victim's genitalia due to the severity of his injuries.

The dissident republican organisation Oglaigh na hEireann claimed responsibility for the attack.

As the gunmen, who were armed with a stolen PSNI handgun, were fleeing the scene the mother of the victim lashed out with a kitchen knife catching O'Neill on the leg.

Blood found on the knife was tested at the time but did not register any known match.

The gun used to shoot Murdoch was forensically linked to nine other similar shootings in the area.

In 2015, O'Neill was arrested after being reported to police for a domestic incident that occurred in north Belfast. As part of that arrest routine fingerprint and DNA samples were taken.

The DNA was later matched to the blood taken from the knife in the November 2010 shooting.

Judge Patrick Kinney revoked O'Neill's bail following the guilty plea saying he accepted the prosecution argument that "the landscape has changed,"

He been due to go on trial at Belfast Crown Court but his defence lawyer Jonathan Browne asked that O'Neill be re-arraigned on the charges.

He admitted possessing a Glock pistol with intent and unlawfully and maliciously causing grievous bodily harm on November 15, 2010.

Prosecution lawyer David Russell said that in light of O'Neill's guilty pleas, he would apply for a charge of wounding, to be 'left on the books'.

O'Neill's lawyer asked that he be released on continuing bail, "not withstanding the serious nature of the charges" he had now admitted.

Mr Browne, who succeeded in getting O'Neill's bail relaxed to attend a Madness concert at the summer Belsonic music event, pointed out that his client had been on bail for over a year.

Mr Browne accepted that O'Neill's crimes will attract a custodial sentence, but argued that his bail conditions had on four separate occasions been relaxed to allow him to leave the jurisdiction, and he had all times adhered to the conditions.

However, Crown lawyer Mr Russell said that O'Neill had admitted involvement in a shooting in which five shots were discharged, leaving the victim with "life changing injuries".

Judge Kinney remanded him into custody to be sentenced at a later date.

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