Northern Ireland news

Thomas Devlin murder: A tragedy that changed the lives of three families forever

Penny Holloway and Jim Devlin, parents of Thomas Devlin.

The father of one of the teenagers who was with schoolboy Thomas Devlin on the night he was murdered has spoken for the first time about the events of 15 years ago that changed the lives of three families forever.

Thomas was knifed to death just 400 yards from the front door of his north Belfast home on August 10, 2005.

The 15-year-old suffered at least nine stab wounds to his face, chest and abdomen

His friend, Jonathan McKee, was also attacked and stabbed in the stomach.

A third friend Fintan Maguire, managed to escape by climbing over the fence of a nearby school.

Thomas' parents Penny Holloway and Jim Devlin campaigned for five years for justice for their child and in 2010 two men were finally convicted of the murder.

Schoolboy Thomas Devlin, stabbed to death on the Somerton Road in August 2005.

Gary Taylor, of Mountcollyer Avenue, Belfast, was ordered to serve a minimum 30 years in prison, one of the longest tariffs ever handed down in Northern Ireland.

Nigel Brown, from Whitewell Road in the city, was jailed for at least 22 years for his part in the murder.

During a failed appeal in 2012, Brown's defence argued that the UVF had warned him against co-operating with the police investigation.

His conviction was upheld and the pair remain in Maghaberry prison.

Speaking for the first time Fintan Maguire's father, well known Belfast pharmacist Terry Maguire, remembers the terrible events of that night.

Well known pharmacist Terry Maguire recalls the night Thomas Devlin and two friends, including his son Fintan were attacked.

Writing for the Slugger O'Toole website he recalls waking from his sleep to find his then 16-year-old son, telling him that he and his friends had been attacked and police were downstairs.

"When I went to bed at 10pm, he and his friends were playing video games in the back bedroom", Mr Maguire recalls.

The three school boys left the Maguire home at 10.45pm and walked to the all-night garage, to buy crisps and lemonade.

A Police officer leaves flowers on the ground close to where Thomas Devlin was murdered in 2005.

"On Somerton Road, by the homes of bishops, doctors and judges, two men attacked from behind", said Mr Maguire.

"One of the three shouted 'run' but already another was being hit on the head with a wooden club and was on his knees.

"My son and the other friend attempted to climb the fence of a school but the friend was too slow and was punched and stabbed as he fell to the ground.

"A passer-by came to their aid and he too was threatened by the attackers.

"A car driving by scattered the attack as my son climbed back over the school fence and with the passer-by helped the wounded friends".

A GP living close by was called to give assistance at the scene before the ambulance arrived and took Thomas and his injured friend to hospital.

"My son and the passer-by were driven around in a police car in the hope of identifying the assailants. They had no luck and now the police had brought him home", said Mr Maguire.

"My son was shaken, concerned, anxious, so I reassured him that things will be fine and to get some sleep until the police return.

"At 2.30am, two police Landrovers parked up in front of the house.

"My son was out of bed first and had opened the door to the police as I arrive in the hallway.

"They asked the same questions and I stopped them, explaining these questions had been answered.

"At this point they awkwardly suggested that one boy’s parents were outside and would like a word and now I realised the main purpose for their call".

Mr Maguire recalls despite their sons being friends this was his first meeting with Thomas's parents.

Penny Holloway asked, "could they speak to me alone".

"With him (Fintan) in the hallway and the door closed her husband paced around a coffee table as she calmly told me her son was dead.

"The paramedics and the hospital did what they could. He was stabbed nine times in the back and on one occasion the knife had punctured his heart. He was 15 years old.

"I was only able to struggle a few senseless pathetic words of consolation. I was disarmed by her dignity and the rationalisation of her thoughts at this most tragic of moments.

"For all her strength she cannot tell my son, could I please do this for her. It was genuine, kind, considerate and warm".

By the time the two men responsible were brought to court Fintan Maguire was 21 years old. He attended the trial along with Thomas's parents and bravely spoke to the media outside the court.

However, back in 2005 Terry Maguire remembers breaking the news to his "confused" teenage son.

"I needed to get him to speak, speak about his feelings; his pain but 16 year old boys do not do this easily.

"Today, fifteen years on from the murder and ten years on from successful convictions, hard won, the shock and horror of that night still lives with me.

"Penny Holloway said that night that as a family we had been “very lucky indeed” and as the years pass how lucky we were becomes clearer.

"For Thomas Devlin there was nothing more; a young life extinguished long before its great potential could be fully realised", he added.

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