An Armagh man convicted of murdering vulnerable Owen Creaney in Craigavon finally admitted his guilt on Friday, describing the attack as “a moment of madness”.
The admission by Stephen Thomas Hughes came as a tariff hearing was being held at Belfast Crown Court to determine how long he and co-accused Shaunean Boyle should serve for the brutal July 2014 murder.
This last minute dock-side confession was made on 29-year-old Hughes’ behalf by defence QC Peter Irvine who agreed with trial judge Mr Justice Treacy that it seemed “a somewhat remarkable turn around”.
Mr Irvine added that it might show a degree of remorse on Hughes’ part, even at this late stage, and went on to agree with Mr Justice Treacy that Hughes be sentenced on the basis of the jury’s verdict to convict him of the murder.
Mr Irvine said psychiatric and pre-sentence reports mirrored each other. The psychiatric report showed Hughes to be suffering from a severe personality and mood disorder, brought on by alcohol and drug abuse, while in the pre-sentence report Hughes claimed what happened was a “moment of madness”.
Hughes, he added, had reached the stage where he accepted the enormity of what he had done that evening and what flowed from his actions in the subsequent days. In making the plea, Mr Irvine also agreed with Mr Justice Treacy that this was not the case he’d made at his October trial.
However, defence QC John Kearney for 25-year-old Boyle said she should be treated differently to Hughes given that he had lied and perjured himself in evidence to the jury, that it was her, and not he who was the killer.
Mr Kearney said at the time of the brutal attack in Hughes’ Moyraverty Court home in Craigavon, Boyle was a vulnerable 21-year-old, and acting under his spell.
She was much younger than Hughes, said Mr Kearney and had “gone off the rails with drink” and had fallen under the influences of Hughes who had “deliberately lied to the jury”.
However, while the defence lawyer admitted to Mr Justice Treacy that this “was not the case she made” at her trial, Mr Kearney maintained that she and Hughes could and should be treated differently when coming to sentencing.
Mr Kearney said Boyle, from Edenderry Park in Banbridge, had clearly now expressed remorse and regret for what happened, although he acknowledged this may not be accepted by the family who had shown a dignity during proceedings which had not gone unnoticed by anyone.
Prosecution QC Liam McCollum however, said there should be no difference in dealing with either accused. Mr McCollum said that tariff wise the higher starting point of at least 16 years should be passed.