Northern Ireland

Man handed life sentence for murder of mother-of-four Natasha Melendez

Killer John David Scott initially denied the charges but on Tuesday pleaded guilty to murder at Belfast Crown Court

Natasha Melendez died in 2020
Natasha Melendez who was murdered in 2020

A 35-year old man was handed a life sentence on Tuesday after he pleaded guilty to the murder of mother-of-four Natasha Melendez.

Ms Melendez (32) was attacked on March 22, 2020 at her home in Lisburn and died from her injuries on April 1, 2020.

At a previous court appearance, John David Scott denied the charges.

He appeared in the dock of Belfast Crown Court on Tuesday where he pleaded guilty to four charges including murder.

Defence barrister Neil Connor KC addressed Mr Justice O’Hara and asked that his client be re-arraigned.

With an address as HMP Maghaberry, Scott was asked to stand by a court clerk.

He was then charged with murdering Ms Melendez on April 1, 2020.

When asked how he pleaded, Scott paused then replied “guilty.”

He was also charged with, and pleaded guilty to, three prior physical attacks on the mother-of-four.

He admitted causing grievous bodily harm to Ms Melendez on a date between February 13 and March 7, 2020, assaulting her and causing her actual bodily harm on a date between December 1 and December 25, 2019 and assaulting her on February 15, 2020.

As Ms Melendez’s mother and aunt sat in the public gallery of Court 13, Scott appeared emotional after entering ‘guilty’ pleas to all four charges.

Following this Mr Justice O’Hara addressed Scott as he stood in the dock and said: “As a result of the fact you have pleaded guilty to murder today amongst other offences, I am now passing on you the only sentence which is permitted by law which is a Life Sentence.

The senior judge also told Scott that a Tariff hearing will take place “at a later stage ... at which the minimum period you will spend in custody before being considered for release by the Parole Commissioners will be determined, but for today’s purposes I am sentencing you to Life Imprisonment.”

During Tuesday’s hearing, Mr Connor told Mr Justice O’Hara there were “difficulties” in the case that he said were “created by Covid.”

The defence barrister revealed that Scott was initially arrested at the end of March 2020 but was not interviewed by police until January 2022.

Mr Connor also said he would be seeking reports including a Pre-Sentence Report ahead of sentencing.

Crown barrister Rick Weir KC then told Mr Justice O’Hara that the prosecution will be seeking Victim Impact Statements.

The hearing concluded when Scott was told the Tariff hearing will take place on Friday September 20, 2024.