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Man who stabbed ex-partner 30 times is sentenced to 15 years

Stephen McFarlane

A NEWTOWNABBEY man who stabbed his ex-partner 30 times in front of their three-year old daughter will spend at least seven and a half years behind bars for the "brutal and sustained" attack.

Stephen McFarlane (34), from Glenville Park, was handed an extended custodial sentence of 15 years for the attack, which left the 28 year-old mother-of-two with life-changing injuries.

The father-of-three will serve at least seven and a half years in prison before being considered eligible for release by the Paroles Commission. The remainder of his sentence will be spent on licence.

Belfast Crown Court heard that when police arrived at the woman's Carnmoney home, on January 13 last year, after receiving a 999 call from a screaming female they found her lying in a pool of blood in the living room while the crying toddler told officers "bad daddy."

The seriously injured woman was rushed to the Royal Victoria Hospital, where she was treated for 30 stab wounds to her head, chest, abdomen, neck and back.

Telling the court "she could easily have died", a Crown prosecutor noted the woman sustained "multiple stab wounds to her cervical region". She also sustained a large wound close to her jugular vein, and was stabbed "at least nine times" in the chest.

As a result of the knife attack she also suffered collapsed lungs, sustained an injury to her spinal cord and required emergency surgery.

Judge Geoffrey Miller QC spoke of the physical and psychological impact the attack has had upon the Co Antrim woman, who had to learn to walk again, and who suffers from flashbacks. The judge said: "There can be no doubt that the consequences for her have been life-changing."

McFarlane - who was deemed to be dangerous by the Probation Board - went on the run for two days after the knife attack on January 13 last year, and became the subject of a police hunt.

He was arrested following a car chase in east Belfast, and while he initially claimed he couldn't remember what happened, he also at one stage said: "If I have done this, then I am a monster."

The mechanic, who at the time of the domestic attack was using steroids, subsequently admitted a litany of offences including attempting to murder his former partner, damaging her property, and stealing petrol and driving dangerously when on the run.

During today's sentencing the court heard McFarlane has already served a sentence for a previous attack on a former girlfriend.

He assaulted and strangled his ex-partner - whom he had a child with - until she lost consciousness after driving a car off an embankment on the M2 in November 2007.

Judge Miller revealed that after last January's violent incident, the Probation Board deemed McFarlane to be dangerous.

The judge spoke of the "brutal and sustained nature" of the attack, and said, not only was it carried out in front of a young child, but also continued with the woman was "prone and defenceless."

Judge Miller also highlighted McFarlane's conduct when he was on the run, which included stealing number plates from other vehicles in a bid to evade capture as well as driving erratically at speeds of up to 130 mph.

At a previous court hearing, when details of the incident emerged, a Crown prosecutor said the relationship between McFarlane and his ex was volatile.

A month before the attack McFarlane had hrown a brick through the window before refusing to leave.

Two days later, she returned home to find him in her living room brandishing a large knife. He was arrested on both occasions.

At the start of January last year he followed her in his car and "confronted her" in front of their two children - and was later arrested for breaching both bail and a non-molestation order.

Then on Wednesday January 13 last year, police received a 999 call at 8.34pm from a "screaming female requesting help."

When officers arrived at 8.45pm it became apparent someone had forced their way into her home due to a damaged back door.

Officers located the seriously injured woman lying in a pool of her own blood in the living room.

The barrister told the court: "She was bleeding heavily and her three-year old daughter was also present in the living room. She was crying when police arrived, and she said to police 'bad daddy.'"

The woman was rushed to hospital and when well enough to talk to police, told how McFarlane had smashed his way into her home, and said to her "I just want to ask you something because I am going to jail for life. Are you with someone?"

The woman said McFarlane then ran at her and started stabbing her without speaking.

The prosecutor said: "When she fell to the ground, he continued stabbing her. She could hear her daughter screaming. She heard the accused leave, but she couldn't move. Her young daughter tried to comfort her. She didn't think she would survive, and told her daughter she loved her."

After McFarlane fled the scene, the PSNI issued a media appeal for information on his whereabouts.

During his two days at large, McFarland made off without paying for petrol, stole two sets of car registration plates and also drove dangerous during a police chase.

The court heard he was "finally cornered and forcibly removed" from his white Audi at Welland Street before he was taken to the Ulster Hospital.

Gavan Duffy QC, the barrister representing McFarlane, said his client experienced a period of "emotional instability" after his relationship broke down but that he deeply regretted his behaviour.

As he was being led from the dock in handcuffs, McFarlane turned to the woman's family in the public gallery and said: "I want to apologise for what I did, but at the end of the day I got stopped from seeing my children, but I am sorry."

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