Four due to be sentenced after woman scalped in Ballymena

Paula Wilson.
Paula Wilson.

Three men and a woman who took part in a “depraved and sadistic” attack on a vulnerable woman who had her hair dry-shaved were told on Thursday they will be sentenced for the incident in the New Year.

One of the accused is a 21-year-old woman who is already facing sentence for involvement in a separate attack on a man found naked, bruised and battered in taped-up wheelie-bin.

Paula Wilson, originally from Millfield, Ballymena, was one of four accused who appeared in Antrim Crown Court, sitting in Craigavon, on charges arising from the scalping, which occurred during a drink and drug fuelled party in a Co Antrim flat in May last year.

Video footage of the incident which was taken on Wilson’s phone was shown to the court and attracted audible gasps. The video, which lasted around ten minutes, showed the unconscious victim having her eyebrows shaved. Filmed by Wilson, the footage shows her three co-accused then dry-shave the clearly unconscious woman’s head. Using disposable razors, at one stage the footage shows three pairs of hands shaving her hair at the same time.

Part of the woman’s hair was also set on fire, with jokes being made by her attackers about setting off the fire alarm.

The three men in the video are Ballymena men Nathan Telford (21), Wilson Avenue, Ballykeel, 22-year-old Alister William Hamilton, Drumtara and 42-year-old Paul Joshua Balmer from Crosshill View, Kells.

The trio, who are all in custody, and Wilson were told they will be sentenced for their involvement on January 7th, 2015. Wilson was granted continued bail but was warned by Judge Donna McColgan that she should not take this as an indication of the sentence she will receive next month.

While Hamilton and Telford pleaded guilty to two counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm and common assault, Balmer chose to contest the charges but was found unanimously guilty by a jury in September, following a trial.

Wilson, who appeared in court wearing a tag around her ankle, admitted aiding and abetting assault occasioning actual bodily harm and aiding and abetting common assault.

She is due to be sentenced on Monday, along with her 27-year-old boyfriend, Teri Christopher Bernard Lau from Dunclug Park, and Roddy Patterson also 27, and from Glendun Drive, in Ballymena, for her involvement in the attack on body-in-the-bin victim, 21-year-old Adam Robinson.

On Thursday Judge McColgan heard that police in Ballymena knew nothing of the humiliating attack on the woman, who cannot be named to protect her identity, until Wilson was arrested by police investigating the attack on Mr Robinson.

Detective seized her mobile phone, and on examination uncovered shocking footage, not of the attack on Mr Robinson, but on an unconscious woman during a party sometime between May 18 and 22 last year. As well as video footage, there were also multiple images of the injured party and the four defendants on Wilson’s phone.

The attack, which Wilson had captured on her mobile, had gone unreported because the vulnerable victim was left petrified and traumatised and had fled Ballymena.

In the footage Wilson can be heard laughing as she filmed three men dry-shaving the woman’s dark long hair as she lay partially clothed and helpless. When the video was played to the court, all four defendants hung their heads and didn’t watch the footage.

In the video, one of the men was heard joking: “No point on going easy on her, we can’t send her away with a poor haircut,” and then asked others: “Will we just shave the whole head... I am a democratic sort of person, if you want to baldy her, baldy her!”

After her head was shaved and as she lay unconscious on the sofa, four slaps were administered to her freshly shaved head.

Their victim later told police: “I don’t remember anything about it, all I know is that when I woke up my hair was all over the flat and all down the stairs. When I was leaving I remember people laughing.”

Crown prosecutor Neil Connor told the court that in the aftermath of the incident, the victim didn’t report it to police. In addition, there was no victim impact report before the court.

Describing the incident as “persistent” and pointing out the victim was “essentially rendered unconscious” due to her alcohol consumption, Mr Connor said: “This was a deprived, sadistic exercise undertaken by the accused in this case.

“The injured party was used as a prop by the defendants, after they had carried out the various assaults on her. Trophy photographs were obtained on Miss Wilson’s phone. The injured party was an unwilling party for their amusement and entertainment.”

Wilson’s barrister Brian McCartney QC pointed out that his client hadn’t taken part in the shaving or had slapped the woman, but has since offered remorse for her involvement. Saying the incident was set against a backdrop of a drink and drug fuelled party, Mr McCartney said the incident was a “prank that went too far.”

Acknowledging what happened was “unpleasant and disturbing”, Mr McCartney pointed out his 21-year old client had no criminal record. He also spoke of the impact the surrounding media has had on Wilson.

Laurence McCrudden QC, representing Telford, said the case was “appalling, dreadful and disgraceful”, adding it was a “motiveless, drunken and drug-stupified event.”

Mr McCrudden also spoke of Telford’s background, which included behavioural problems and drugs abuse.

Ken McMahon QC, who is Balmer’s defence barrister, acknowleged his client’s bad criminal record which consists of 261 previous convictions. He also said that while the incident was unpleasant, the victim didn’t report the incident and there was therefore no evidence she suffered any pain.

Hamilton’s barrister, Rick Weir QC, said he objected to the use of the words “depraved” and “sadistic”. Telling the court Hamilton was deeply ashamed for this role in this “reprehensible escapade”, the barrister revealed his client was seeking assistance for drugs issues whilst in custody.