Portglenone man gets at least 12 years for ‘senseless’ murder of partner

Denise Dunlop, who was murdered in Ballymena. PACEMAKER BELFAST
Denise Dunlop, who was murdered in Ballymena. PACEMAKER BELFAST

A Co Antrim heroin addict who stabbed his partner to death in front of their seven-year old daughter was yesterday handed a minimum 12-year sentence for the “senseless” murder.

Sentencing Richard McAuley for the fatal stabbing of his partner, Mr Justice Weir told him “you have pleaded guilty to the murder of Denise Dunlop, and there is only one sentence permitted by law for that offence, namely that of life imprisonment.”

As friends and relatives of Ms Dunlop sat in the public gallery at Antrim Crown Court, sitting in Belfast, 42-year old McAuley, from Townhill Road in Portglenone, was told he will serve a minimum sentence of 12 years in prison, without remission, before he can begin to be considered for release by the Parole Commission.

The court heard that as a result of seeing her father stabbing her mother to death, the couple’s daughter suffered a “complex and traumatic experience” which will require “long term and ongoing” therapeutic work.

McAuley was told by Mr Justice Weir that he had caused “enormous and permanent harm” to his daughter.

The fatal stabbing occurred in the living room of 32-year-old Ms Dunlop’s Centuripe Avenue home in Ballymena in the early hours of June 15 last year.

Branding the murder as “senseless”, Mr Justice Weir told McAuley his actions had deprived a young girl of her mother. Saying the row was “fuelled by drink and drugs”, the judge said a young woman had died in a row which was “almost unbelievable in its triviality.”

Mr Justice Weir told McAuley: “You are a powerfully built man of 6ft 1in, while the deceased was a foot shorter. There was no excuse for bringing a knife into this silly domestic dispute.

“The deceased was very drunk, and the prescription drugs she had taken would have made her intoxication worse. She was no threat to you.”

The judge also told McAuley he didn’t believe his claims that he didn’t intend to kill Ms Dunlop.

While the judge also noted McAuley’s “futile” attempts of resusitation in the immediate aftermath and his subsequent expressions of remorse, he told McAuley that his guilty plea had “saved the deceased’s family the pain of listening to all the details in the course of a trial.”

McAuley murdered his partner whilst under a suspended sentence for a previous incident during which he shouted “Seig Heil” and carved satanic symbols with a knife on the front door of a property housing foreign nationals.

Before McAuley was led from the dock, he was told by Mr Justice Weir: “You will serve a minimum term, without remission, of 12 years before you can begin to be considered for parole.”