Ex-officer’s murder sentence reduced

Court
Court

An ex-policeman jailed for murdering his partner in a knife attack at their Co Londonderry home has won an appeal over his term behind bars.

Senior judges reduced the tariff on William Coulter’s life sentence from 18 to 16 years after ruling an additional period was wrongly imposed for previous violence allegedly inflicted in the victim.

Coulter, 63, was convicted of stabbing mother-of-two Jillian Doherty to death in January 2003.

The 43-year-old victim suffered 30 knife wounds in the drink-fuelled attack at the house the couple shared on Mill Road in Portstewart.

Coulter was handed a life sentence for inflicting what the trial judge described as a “frenzied assault”.

He said it was a serious aggravating factor that the murder was the culmination of cruel and violent behaviour over a period of time.

Lawyers for Coulter appealed the sentence, claiming it was manifestly excessive.

They argued that two years had been wrongly added for alleged incidents of domestic violence denied and not put before the jury.

Ruling on the challenge in the Court of Appeal yesterday, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan said issues of vulnerability and multiple injuries justified the higher starting point in the sentence.

He held, however, that the trial judge was not entitled to take into account the disputed history of violence inflicted on Ms Doherty.