Northern Ireland news

Man (31) handed life sentence after confessing to murdering Lisburn man Paul Smyth

Murder victim Paul Smyth (50). Picture by Photopress Belfast

A 31-year old man has been handed a life sentence after confessing to murdering Co Antrim man Paul Smyth.

James Andrew Thomas McVeigh appeared at Belfast Crown Court where he pleaded guilty to murdering the 50-year old, who was found dead in the living room of his home on Coulson Avenue, Lisburn on June 23 2019.

Mr Smyth's loved ones were in the public gallery today to hear McVeigh admit his murder.

McVeigh, address was given as Maghaberry, was one of five people originally due to stand trial on charges over his murder and a gun attack at a house on Mill Street.

The trial was about to begin of McVeigh and co-accused James Holmes today on charges including Mr Smyth's murder and the attempted murder of a couple whose Mill Street home was shot at on June 23 2019.

He initially denied seven offences, but when a charge of murdering Mr Smyth on a date between June 17 and 22 2019 was put again he replied 'guilty.'

McVeigh also admitted possessing a firearm and ammunition with intent to endanger life on the same date and possessing a sawn-off shotgun and ammunition in suspicious circumstances on June 25, 2019.

The prosecution said four remaining counts against McVeigh - including the attempted murder - would not be proceeded with.

Mr Justice Colton said the offence of murder carries a life sentence, but "in due course I will set a date for a hearing in which I will set the minimum tariff you must serve before you can apply for release on licence".

Co-accused James Holmes, from Lawnmount Crescent in Lisburn, facing six charges was also re-arraigned and pleaded guilty to three offences - possessing the sawn-off shotgun and ammunition in suspicious circumstances on June 25, 2019 and two counts of attempted murder from the gun attack at Mill Street.

The remaining charges - including murdering Mr Smyth - were not proceeded with.

Last week, a jury was sworn to preside over the trial, but before the trial began their two co-accused changed their pleas.

James Robert Stewart (31), address was given as Maghaberry, admitted possessing a firearm and ammunition with intent to endanger life between June 17 and 22, 2019 and possessing a sawn-off shotgun and ammunition in suspicious circumstances on June 25, 2019.

Ryan Mark Megarry (38) from Salia Avenue in Carrickfergus admitted using his vehicle on June 18, 2019 for reconnaisance in Coulson Avenue and identifying Paul Smyth and his home to other parties.

He was released on continuing bail.

Christina Flanaghan (30) from Longstone Street, Lisburn denied withholding information fro police and was formally acquitted after prosecutors offered no evidence.

Plea hearing will be on November 12.

James McVeigh appearing at Lisburn Court in June 2019. Picture by Pacemaker

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