Two Co Antrim men have been jailed for a total of 25 years for the brutal murder of Chinese businessman Nelson Cheung.
Sentencing Christopher David Menaul, 27, and 35-year-old Virgilio Augusto Fernando Correia at Belfast Crown Court for murdering Mr Cheung and for attacking and robbing his wife Winnie, Mr Justice Treacy said: “The lives of two honest, hard-working people were totally destroyed by the actions of drug-addled, parasitic assailants who were motivated by the need to feed their drugs habits.”
Correia was told he will serve a minimum sentence of 16 years without any remission before he is considered eligible for release, while Menaul was handed a minimum jail term of nine years.
Mr and Mrs Cheung had just closed their takeaway restaurant on Randalstown’s Main Street in the early hours of January 8, 2015 and were making their way home to Ballymena when their jeep was rammed by Menaul and Correia.
After Mr Cheung went to speak to the driver of the car, he was pulled away by Correia who after demanding money, stabbed the “slight” pensioner 18 times.
Mrs Cheung was dragged from her car by the hair, sustained serious wounds to her head and hand, and also had her handbag robbed.
After the attackers fled, Mrs Cheung was found by the emergency services, covered in blood and cradling her fatally wounded husband.
Mr Justice Treacy said: “This pitiful scene at the side of a country road still haunts the Cheung family to this day. It is an image they will never put behind them.”
The judge also revealed that a question still haunts Mrs Cheung – “why were they so cruel to a stranger who was so powerless to resist?”
During a previous court hearing, it emerged that Menaul and Correia had undertaken a ‘dry run’ ahead of the events which unfolded on a country road in January 2015.
Addressing Correia, Mr Justice Treacy said that it should have been apparent that when he decided to carry out the robbery, he would have been aware the “slightly built man was not a match for you physically”.
Pointing out the consequences of bringing a knife to the robbery, the judge told Correia: “A moment’s reflection would have made it clear to you that there was no need to arm yourself with any weapon to overpower and rob these people.”
The judge added that Correia’s decision to take a knife to the scene had “a catastrophic effect” and led to an “orgy of deadly violence”.
The court heard that both Correia and Menaul were addicted to drugs, and that their motivation was to rob the Cheungs to pay off drugs debts to local paramilitaries.
Menaul was handed a minimum nine-year sentence after it was accepted that he played a secondary role in the murder, but knew about the presence of the knife.
He was also handed a 12-year sentence for wounding and robbing Mrs Cheung of a handbag containing and iPad, iPhone, £200 in cash and bank and credit cards – as was co-accused Correia.
Also sentenced were husband and wife Gary and Lisa Thompson, for the roles they played in the aftermath of the murder.
After murdering Mr Cheung, and robbing and attacking Mrs Cheung, Menaul and Correia went to the Thompson’s Cunningham Way home in Antrim.
The couple, who now live at Felden Avenue in Newtownabbey, allowed the killers to use their home for refuge, to remove clothing worn during the incident and to clean themselves.
As well as admitting a charge of assisting offenders by letting the killers use their home, the couple also pleaded guilty to a charge of perverting the course of justice.
And while Gary Thompson, 34, admitted a charge of robbing Mrs Cheung of a handbag and its contents, his 35-year old wife Lisa admitted handling the stolen goods.
Gary Thompson was handed a sentence of seven years – half of which will be spent in prison with the remainder of the sentence on supervised licence – while Lisa Thompson was given a two-year sentence, which was suspended for two years.