Northern Ireland news

Killers met in juvenile detention and embarked on 20-year life of crime

Sean Hegarty (left) was on bail when he murdered ex-partner Caron Smyth while Ciaran Nugent had a violent criminal record going back to when he was a teenager

THE killers of Caron Smyth and Finbar McGrillen met as teenagers in a youth detention centre while both were sentenced for violent offences, it has emerged.

Sean Hegarty and Ciaran Nugent are currently serving life terms in Maghaberry prison for the brutal murder of the friends, who were discovered battered to death in an apartment in the Ravenhill Court area of south Belfast in December 2013.

Hegarty, who had a history of domestic violence and more than 70 previous convictions, had been released on police bail to an address with no electricity supply to operate his electronic tag just three days before he killed his ex-partner and her 42-year-old friend in a jealous rage.

In a damning report released this week, the Police Ombudsman revealed that he had been freed despite Ms Smyth (40) telling officers just days before that she believed he was going to kill her.

Ciaran Nugent had a violent criminal record going back to when he was a teenager.

His co-accused Ciaran Nugent was also on police bail at the time and had an extensive criminal record, with many of the offences committed alongside Hegarty.

The two killers, who had been friends for almost 20 years, had met as teenagers in Hydebank Wood Young Offenders centre.

Nugent, from west Belfast but with an address at a Simon Community hostel at the time of the murders, had convictions dating back to his early teens including two previous incidents of violence, one involving a hammer.

The pair had been involved in two robberies in April 2013, one on a Belfast city centre cafe and the other at the Ulster Hall.

Hegarty was also subject to two non-molestation orders, awarded to different ex-partners, both of whom had reported incidents of violence and threats to kill.

Despite this he was released from prison in May 2013 after serving a jail term for assaulting an ex-partner without supplying authorities with a relevant address so he could be monitored under a violent offenders program.

A PPANI (Public Protection Arrangements in Northern Ireland) meeting that was meant to be held after his release never took place, the ombudsman found.

The family of Caron Smyth have said through their solicitor that they will now be seeking an inquest into her death and pursuing a civil action against the PSNI, which has disciplined six officers.

Marie Brown of Women's Aid last night said the ombudsman's report must be acted on.

"The victim in this case couldn't have done anything more to protect herself. She reported the crime, she told police she was afraid for her life, and yet she was failed," she said.

"In this case all the warning signs were there - this man was a violent offender with a history of domestic violence against previous partners.

"He should never have been released on bail and lessons must be taken from this report, that shows failure after failure."

Father-of-two Finbar McGrillen (42)

The bodies of Caron Smyth and Finbar McGrillen were found in Mr McGrillen's apartment at Ravenhill Court

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