A 50-year old man who stabbed a Belfast business owner in the neck and head with a hunting knife following a drunken incident involving the shop owner’s dog was on Friday starting an eight-year sentence.
Raymond Allardyce was initially charged with attempting to murder Denis Wolsey, who has run a tackle shop on the Upper Newtownards Road since 1984.
Belfast Crown Court heard the prolonged attack on Mr Wolsey - which included Allardyce stabbing him three times, punching him as he lay on the ground then stamping repeatedly on his face - was only stopped when police arrived.
Acknowledging that Mr Wolsey “could possibly have been killed as a result of this attack”, Judge David McFarland told Allardyce - whose address was given as Bannview Heights in Banbridge but who is originally from east Belfast - he will serve half his sentence in prison, with the remaining four years spent on licence upon his release.
As a result of the attack, Mr Wolsey, 65, sustained life-changing injuries. He can no longer work more than a couple of hours in the shop, suffers partial paralysis in his left arm, walks with the aid of a stick and has had to move house which is more accommodating to his needs.
Crown prosecutor Rosemary Walsh said the incident occurred on June 10 last year, when Allardyce drunkenly tried to give a crisp to one of Mr Wolsey’s dogs.
Revealing that the men knew each other and were “on quite friendly terms” as Allardyce was an occasional customer of the tackle shop, Ms Walsh said that at around 2pm on the day in question several witnesses reporting seeing Allardyce in a drunken state.
Allardyce went into the newsagents beside Wolsey’s Tackle Shop where he bought a package of crisps. Whilst in the shop, he told a member of staff he was “on the sauce” and “absolutely busted”.
He then left the shop and made his way to the tackle shop, where Mr Wolsey’s two dogs were tethered outside.
Allardyce opened the crisps and approached one of the dogs. He asked the dog to give him his paw, which the dog did, then he put a crisp in his mouth and leaned forward with his face around two inches from the dog.
Allardyce then stumbled into the dog, sustaining a bite to the lip in the process. Mr Wolsey brought Allardyce into his shop and helped him to clean up, before he left the shop.
Around 45 minutes later a shop assistant saw Allardyce returning to the tackle store. She said Allardyce was walking with purpose, had a determined look on his face and was carrying a large knife - which prompted her to call the police.
Allardyce then entered the tackle shop and attacked Mr Wolsey from behind. The court heard Allardyce firstly stabbed Mr Wolsey in the back of the neck, which immediately disabled him and caused him to fall to the floor.
Whilst he was on the ground, Mr Wolsey was subjected to a prolonged attack. He was stabbed a second and third time before Allardyce hit him several times with the bottom of his fist by the hand he was holding the knife.
As the attack progressed, Mr Wolsey was asking for help, but Allardyce continued the assault and threatened to cut his nose off and cut his throat.
As well as being punched and stabbed, Mr Wolsey was also stamped on as he lay defenceless on the ground. He later reported seeing the sole of Allardyce’s shoe as he was repeatedly stamped in the face and chest, and believed he was going to die.
The attacker also told Mr Wolsey “when I’m finished with you, I’m going to cut the dog’s throat”.
Ms Walsh said “this incident only stopped because of the arrival of the police, rather than any decision on Mr Allardyce’s part”.
Allardyce was arrested at the scene and was taken to hospital. On the way, he told officers he had been bitten by Mr Wolsey’s dog, had gone home and “necked” a ten-glass bottle of vodka and had armed himself with a hunting knife and returned to the shop as he wanted to kill the dog.
He was not fit to be interviewed until the following day, when he said he had been drinking for four days, and had some recollection of having been bitten by a dog.
He also said he had known Mr Wolsey for around 20 years and that the shopowner was “always good” to him.
Allardyce was initially charged with attempting to murder Mr Wolsey, which he denied. He did, however, plead guilty to wounding Mr Wolsey with intent to do him grievous bodily harm, and of possessing an offensive weapon.
As a result of the stabbing and attack, Mr Wolsey suffered paralysis of the left side. He also sustained multiple injuries including a stab wound to the back of his neck.
He spent almost one month in hospital, had to undergo physiotheraphy and is left with lasting problems such as reduced strength and dexterity, particularly in his upper left limb.
He has also experienced difficulties sleeping, can no longer work in his shop on a full-time basis and can no longer enjoy his hobbies of fishing and sailing.
Ms Walsh told the court “the incident has had a dramatic effect on his life”.
Regarding the attack, Mr Walsh said it was pre-meditated as Allardyce had gone home and armed himself with a hunting knife. She also revealed Allardyce has a previous conviction for violence.
Defence barrister Gavan Duffy QC said that Allardyce has expressed regret and remorse for what he had done to Mr Wolsey.
Branding the attack as “out of character”, Mr Duffy said that Allardyce wasn’t someone who displayed aggression when he was drunk. He also said “it seems his intention was to attack the dog as opposed to anything else.”
The barrister also spoke about Allardyce’s “excellent work record” which came to an end when he was diagnosed with arthritis. To help cope with the pain, Allardyce started self-medicating with alcohol.
Saying that Allardyce was ashamed of his actions, Mr Duffy said he has abstained from drink since the incident.
After listening to submissions from both the Crown and the defence, Judge David McFarland spoke of the sustained nature of the attack on a man who was unable to defend himself. The Judge also said that if it wasn’t for the arrival of police, Mr Wolsey could have been killed.