Man ‘just couldn’t stop stabbing best friend to death’

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A violent delusional paranoid schizophrenic, high on a cocktail of Buckfast wine and medication, who “just couldn’t stop” stabbing his best friend to death as he “begged ... pleaded for his life”, will find out next month what sentence he will face.

Belfast Crown Court heard that a “remorseful” James Brendan Patrick Devine was mentally ill with “delusional beliefs” about his friend and next door neighbour James Hughes when he stabbed him more than 30 times after breaking into his flat.

The 44-year-old from Belfast’s Divis Tower, who has previous convictions for alcohol-fuelled violence, including stabbings, had been charged with murdering the ‘good samaritan’ who’d befriended him.

The charge was withdrawn when he pleaded guilty in June to manslaughter by way of diminished reponsibility.

Prosecuting QC David McDowell revealed that Devine was arrested on November 6, 2016, as he left his sister’s Ballymoney home. She had told police of his confession to killing his friend and that he “wanted to hand himself in”.

Defence QC Greg Berry said Devine’s continuing mental illness was at the “very core of this terrible and dreadful crime”.

Mr Justice Colton was told that Devine had travelled to his sister’s after initially phoning his mother to tell her he had “blood all over his coat” and when asked why, told her he’d “stabbed a boy to death”.

Then later while sitting having dinner he told his sister “he’d stabbed Seamus ... I stabbed him and I stabbed him ... that Seamus was begging for his life, but that he couldn’t stop”.

Devine, who also gave his sister “a wad of cash”, telling her to split it between the family because “where he was going he wouldn’t need it”, later asked her to “ring the police and she did so”.

Later in Belfast’s Musgrave Street police station, while his hands were swabbed for evidence, he told the officer to “do a good job on this one ... it’s the one I stabbed him with”.

Earlier the prosecution lawyer said police who’d gone to Mr Hughes’s flat found a trail of blood leading from the front door, which had been forced open, to the kitchen. Sitting on a computer chair, his head leaning against the wall sat Mr Hughes, described by others as “an intellegent kind, generous and thoughful man”.

His post-mortem also indicated he had attempted to defend himself.