A Lurgan man who cut his partner’s throat in a “clear, clinical, cynical act of murder” will serve a minimum of 18 years in prison before being considered for release.
David Lyness, who Belfast Crown Court heard has a fascination with knives, killed Anita Downey in the early hours of January 20 last year.
The 51-year old mother-of-three bled to death on the floor of Lyness’s Toberhewny Hall home from a wound to the left side of her neck which extended back to her spine and severed her jugular vein.
Speaking after Friday’s sentencing, Mrs Downey’s ex-husband Stephen branded Lyness a “very very bad man”, and said that while he was glad Lyness was behind bars, the family would have preferred the death penalty.
Lyness (52) showed no emotion as Judge Geoffrey Miller QC spoke of the impact the “chilling” murder has had on Mrs Downey’s family.
The court heard Mrs Downey described as the “lynchpin” of her family, with her father Thomas Doran speaking of “a huge void that will never been filled” by the death of his “wonderful” daughter.
Lyness, who has an extensive criminal record for offences including wounding and possessing knives, had denied murdering his partner and instead claimed that during an argument, Mrs Downey came at him with a knife.
He told police that during a “frantic struggle” when he tried to disarm her, they both ended up on the floor where he noticed blood coming from her.
This version of events was rejected by the jury, who relied on other evidence , including an eye-witness account from Lyness’s son, who was 21 at the time.
Lyness was called to give evidence, and while he answered a handful of questions put to him by his own legal representative, he accused his own barrister of asking him to perjure himself and later withdrew the instructions of his legal team.
Judge Miller described Mrs Downey’s killing as “clear act of deliberate murder,” adding: “I cannot over-emphasis the brutality of this act.”
Saying Lyness made a “deliberate decision” to arm himself, Judge Miller said: “This was not the loss of temper rising out of a quarrel between two people who knew each other.”
Judge Miller also noted the murder was committed in front of Lyness’s son, who had to give evidence against his father in court. This, Judge Miller said, displayed “the callous disregard” Lyness has “for the feelings of anyone other than himself”.
In his victim impact statement, Mrs Downey’s father Thomas Doran said: “I have been asked to explain how this has affected me, but I will never be able to articulate the pain and loss I feel every day.
“Anita was 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.”
Judge Miller also spoke of a fascination Lyness has with knives, revealing that Lyness used to carry a meat cleaver in his jacket pocket and sleep with a machete.
Lyness’s criminal record includes previous attacks on women.
Addressing Lyness, Judge Miller told him there were no mitigating features in the case. Telling Lyness he will serve a minimum of 18 years of the life sentence in prison before he is considered eligible for release by the Paroles Commission, the judge then told prison staff “the defendant may be taken down.”
As he was being led from the dock in handcuffs, Lyness walked passed his victim’s family in the public gallery and showed no emotion.