A BALLYMENA man yesterday pleaded guilty to the sectarian murder of schoolboy Michael McIlveen seven years ago.
Jeff Lewis had been facing a second murder trial but yesterday admitted his part in a gang attack which left his 15-year-old victim with fatal head injuries.
Lewis had been jailed in May 2009 after a jury convicted him and two other young men of Michael's murder but the Court of Appeal later quashed their convictions and ordered a retrial.
The 24-year-old was formally arraigned at Belfast Crown Court yesterday where he pleaded guilty to murder.
The father-of-one from Rossdale in Ballymena will be sentenced next month.
Lewis had originally been ordered to serve 11 years of a life sentence and at the first trial jurors heard he had fought with Michael before a co-accused felled the Catholic teenager with a baseball bat.
The court was also told Lewis had admitted that he had kicked Michael as he lay injured on the ground.
Earlier this year co-accused Aaron Cavana Wallace (25) and Christopher Francis Kerr (27) were sentenced to eight and nine years respectively after they pleaded guilty on the third day of their murder retrial.
They had pleaded on the basis they were "secondary parties" to the killing but accepted they had participated in the assault when Michael was kicked.
Kerr was 19 at the time of the attack and supplied the baseball bat used by co-accused Mervyn Moon to strike Michael after the gang had chased him to an alley behind houses in Ballymena town centre.
At the end of the 2009 trial Kerr was given a 13-year tariff while Wallace was ordered to serve 11 years of a life sentence.
Speaking after the pair were sentenced in May the McIlveens said they were disgusted at the shorter tariffs which could see the killers freed within four years because of time already spent on remand.
Moon (25) is serving a 10-year jail term after admitting his guilt days into the original trial.
There were seven defendants in the first trial and two were the same age as their victim.
Christopher McLeister, now aged 23, was found not guilty of murder but convicted of manslaughter and given a suspended sentence.
Peter McMullan (22) was found not guilty of murder by direction and Paul Henson (23) was sentenced to nine months for affray and criminal damage but was freed because of time already served on remand.
Earlier this year The Irish News reported the financial cost of the case.
By April defence fees alone had reached £5.5 million, in part due to each of the defendants having been represented in court by two barristers, plus a solicitor.