Northern Ireland

John Paul Whitla admits murder of Nathan Gibson

Murder victim Nathan Gibson
Murder victim Nathan Gibson Murder victim Nathan Gibson

A Co. Armagh man accused of knifing a man to death has been handed a life sentence after he admitted murder.

The case against John Paul Whitla had been listed for review at Craigavon Crown Court but instead, defence KC Eugene Grant asked for three of the charges to be put to the 44-year-old again.

Standing in the dock flanked by prison officers, Whitla said simply "guilty" when the charge of murdering Nathan Gibson was put to him.

In addition to murder, Whitla, of no fixed abode, also entered guilty pleas to causing actual bodily harm and trespass with intent to commit sexual assault arising from the same incident on 16 January 2020.

Other charges of assault, false imprisonment and assault were left on the books following an application by prosecuting KC Frank O’Donoghue.

Judge Patrick Lynch KC told Whitla that given his admissions, there was only one sentence he could pass under law “that of life imprisonment.”

The facts of the case have not yet been formally opened in court but it is understood 25-year-old Mr Gibson was discovered fatally wounded on a towpath near Lake Road in Craigavon.

The area was closed for a day as police and forensics teams swept the area and the Legahory estate home of Mr Gibson was also cordoned off and under a heavy police presence.

Speaking following the murder, Detective Inspector John Caldwell said police received a report Mr Gibson had been attacked and when officers responded, they found him fatally wounded on the towpath and he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Judge Lynch remanded Whitla  back into custody, adjouring the case to November 17, ordering that a pre-sentence probation report as well as victim impact statements be lodged ahead of the hearing.