Northern Ireland news

Anita Downey murder: Lurgan man will serve at least 18 years behind bars

David Lyness will serve a minimum of 18 years behind bars

THE ex-husband of murdered mother-of-three Anita Downey has said the man who cut her throat should spend the rest of his life behind bars.

David Lyness (52) was told today he will serve a minimum of 18 years in prison for the "clear, clinical, cynical act of murder".

His 51-year-old partner bled to death on the floor of his Toberhewry Hall home in Lurgan in the early hours on January 20 last year from a wound to the left side of her neck which extended back to her spine.

Speaking after the sentencing at Belfast Crown Court, Mrs Downey's ex-husband Stephen branded Lyness a "very, very bad man who committed numerous crimes over a long time".

Describing the victim as "the happiest person you could ever meet... she was a ray of sunshine on a cloudy day," he praised the judge but said no jail term would be long enough.

"Honestly, my children would like the death penalty but there is no death penalty, so life imprisonment - meaning he doesn't get out at all - would be better for us and the community, because he is a dangerous person."

Lyness (52), who has an extensive record for offences including wounding and possessing knives, showed no emotion as Judge Geoffrey Miller spoke of the impact the "chilling" murder has had on his victim's family.

He had denied murdering his partner and instead claimed that during an argument after drink had been taken, she came at him with a knife from his kitchen.

He told police that during a "frantic struggle" when he tried to disarm her, they both ended up on the floor and when he realised Ms Downey was dead, he tried to take his own life by cutting his throat.

Murder victim Anita Downey (51)

This version of events was rejected by the jury, who returned a unanimous guilty verdict after hearing other evidence during the three-week trial including an eyewitness account from Lyness's son, who was 21 at the time.

After seeing the couple arguing in the living room, Shane Lyness witnessed his father straddling Mrs Downey and "sawing" at her neck with a kitchen knife.

Lyness's version was also rejected by the assistant state pathologist for Northern Ireland, Dr Christopher Johnson, who said "you couldn't get a wound like that simply as the result of an accident".

While Lyness answered a handful of questions from his own legal representative in court, he accused his barrister of asking him to perjure himself and then refused to answer any more.

Judge Miller said he had beaten his parter in the living room and brought her to the ground.

There, he straddled her and continued the assault before going into the kitchen and arming himself with a knife he purchased for £6.99 in TK Maxx.

On his way back to the now prone Mrs Downey, Lyness threatened Shane with the knife before once again straddling her and then cutting her throat.

Describing it as a "clear act of deliberate murder", Judge Miller said: "I cannot over-emphasis the brutality of this act."

"This was not the loss of temper rising out of a quarrel between two people who knew each other."

The judge added that in the aftermath of the attack, Lyness failed to obtain any medical attention for Mrs Downey.

In victim impact statements, Thomas Doran described his daughter as "happy-go-lucky, she enjoyed life and had a great sense of fun".

"She was a warm and generous person, and I couldn't have wished for a better daughter. She was a wonderful mum to her three children and her loss has left a huge void that will never be filled."

Judge Miller spoke of an apparent fascination Lyness has with knives, revealing that he used to carry a meat cleaver in his jacket pocket and sleep with a machete in his bed.

Also noted was his criminal record that includes previous attacks on women in a domestic setting.

Detective Inspector David McGrory later welcomed the sentence for the "very cold and callous killing".

"Lyness's callousness was summed up in him making his own son give evidence, and we commend Shane Lyness for this," he said.

"David Lyness is a dangerous man, and deserves to be in jail for 18 years."

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