Northern Ireland news

This is the Co Armagh man convicted of killing father-of-two Martin Mulligan

For almost three years Joe Hillen denied knowing about the death of Martin Mulligan before making a voluntary statement to gardaí last year

THIS is the Co Armagh man convicted of killing father-of-two Martin Mulligan, who was stabbed and left to die on the side of a country road.

Joe Hillen (24), of Glendesha Road, Forkhill, was found guilty of manslaughter after he told a court he had "jabbed out" at the taxi driver in self-defence.

However, Mr Mulligan's family have criticised his six-year sentence and claimed their loved one was "brutally, viciously and inhumanely killed for no fault of his own".

The 53-year-old's body was found at Carnmore, Balriggan, near Dundalk, Co Louth early on September 28 2015, a few hours after his last drop-off in Co Armagh.

Taxi driver Martin Mulligan was stabbed to death

Gardaí focused on Hillen because officers had chased him from Dundalk hours before Mr Mulligan's death.

He had evaded a patrol car by speeding towards the border.

A forensic analysis of blood on the road and DNA on the dead man's jumper confirmed the father-of-one was present when Mr Mulligan was stabbed.

Hillen, who had a criminal record for road offences and handling stolen property, had no previous convictions for violence.

Read more: Co Armagh man jailed for six years for stabbing Dundalk taxi driver

For almost three years he denied knowing about the killing, claiming he never met Martin Mulligan, before making a voluntary statement last year admitting to the stabbing, but saying he did it in self defence.

Hillen claimed that while driving by a friend's land he saw Mr Mulligan apparently dumping rubbish and, after confronting him, a fight broke out and the victim pulled out a long, stainless steel, kitchen knife.

He said he "flipped" the knife and the taxi driver punched him repeatedly on the back of the head, pushing him to his knees, from where he struck out, inflicting the fatal wounds.

Grainne Mulligan said her husband was concerned for his safety and kept a bar on the floor of the taxi for protection and a small Swiss Army knife in the car

The pathologist agreed the description would explain the "unusual" position of wounds in the lower abdomen and thigh.

A probation report stated that Hillen understands the pain he has inflicted on the Mulligan family.

However, with the Co Armagh man expected to be freed in just over four years' time, Mr Mulligan's family said they felt failed by the justice system.

His daughter Sharon said Hillen's account of what happened was "unfairly" taken as "gospel" because her father wasn't there to give his side.

His wife also said her husband had been concerned for his safety, keeping a bar on the floor of the taxi for protection and a small Swiss Army knife in the car.

Grainne Mulligan said he would not back down in any situation and might come to blows with anyone who tried to rob him or cheat him.

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