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Murdered ex-RUC man had conviction for sectarian abuse

Forensic teams at the house where Brian Coulter was murdered in Magherafelt earlier this week 
Connla Young

A former RUC officer murdered in Co Derry earlier this week was convicted of the sectarian abuse of his neighbours five years ago.

Brian Coulter, whom it is believed was aged in his early 60s, was found at a house at Sandy Braes in Magherafelt on Monday.

A man was later arrested on suspicion of a murder which stunned the local community.

During a court hearing in June 2016 the ex-policeman admitted harassing two neighbours in January that year.

The court was told that during the incident, which police treated as a hate crime, the injured parties had heard banging on their front door and saw the murder victim standing outside.

A lawyer told the court that when the couple went to the door Mr Coulter shouted aggressively and used explicit language, which left the pair shaken.

The following day the victims found one of their garden ornaments smashed and kicked into their garden.

Two pages were also found in an entry, which contained abusive language and allegations that left the pair distressed.

The couple also received a post card containing similar abuse telling them to keep out of the entry and to take down a CCTV camera.

A lawyer said the card had been signed Brian Coulter.

The court was told that at the time police were treating the incident as a hate crime because the comments made were sectarian in nature.

During the hearing a defence barrister said Mr Coulter had served as an RUC officer in south Armagh during the 1980s and that on one occasion he had changed a shift with a colleague who was blown up.

The court was told that he later turned to alcohol and had battled an addiction since then.

A judge also heard the former policeman had a mental breakdown in 2015, which resulted in a five-month stay in Holywell Hospital.

It emerged Mr Coulter had also received a suspended prison sentence for another matter and up to that point had not drank or reoffended.

A district judge said that what Mr Coulter had done was terrible but accepted it was caused by his alcohol misuse.

He added that the accused had not re-offended since his last suspended sentence and he did not wish to send him to jail again.

Mr Coulter was given a six-month jail sentence suspended for three years.

He also wished the former RUC man well in his battle with alcohol.

Mr Couter's murder was the second in south Derry in recent days.

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