Two men have admitted being part of an armed mob of up to 70 who hospitalised a Larne man after storming his home in March last year armed with hammers, hatchets, machetes and batons.
The Greenisland men, 35-year-old Stephen Craig Mettleton and 30-year-old Steven Adam Blackwood, had originally faced other more serious charges including attempting to murder the man and causing criminal damage to his home.
However, they were allowed to “lie on the file” after Mettleton, from Rossmore Green, and Blackwood, from Moyard Gardens, initially pleaded guilty to an additional charge of affray, and a previous charge of intimidating the man and his partner from their Knockdhu Park home
Later Mettleton’s then-girlfriend, 38-year-old Elizabeth Sharon Milligan – who gave police a false alibi, claiming he was with her in her Grange Park home in Ballyclare at the time of the attack on March 30, 2014 – pleaded guilty to attempting to pervert the course of public justice.
All three were released on continuing bail on Thursday and will be sentenced in early November.
At the opening of Mettleton and Blackwood’s non-jury Diplock trial on Wednesday, Judge Alistair Devlin heard that the victim believed he was going to die when attacked by the gang as his disabled son and two daughter hid upstairs.
Prosecution QC Neil Connor told Belfast Crown Court that when the man saw masked men getting out of several vehicles, “he instructed his two daughters to go to their bedroom and hide under the bed, and that his disabled son should go into his specially-adapted bedroom”.
The man then watched as the front door, boarded up due to a prior attack, was repeatedly struck with hammers and hatchets until it started to give way.
Mr Connor said that as the occupant retreated into the kitchen, he became aware that the front door had been forced open and that some of the crowd were in his home.
Whilst some of the crowd entered the living room where they smashed furniture, others made their way upstairs.
He then retreated to the kitchen where he attempted to hold the door closed, only to be “struck on the back of his head by one of a number of bricks and other missiles thrown through the kitchen window.”
Mr Connor said: “He tried to protect himself with his hands, but given the number of attackers and the severity of the attack, this proved futile.
“He believed he was going to die as a result of this attack.”
The injuries he sustained in the attack included a fractured skull, multiple head lacerations which required staples and stitches, multiple fractured ribs and a ruptured spleen.