Murder of Donegal teenager - convictions upheld

Two Derry men jailed for kicking a Donegal teenager to death were both safely convicted of his killing, the Court of Appeal ruled on Friday.

Two Derry men jailed for kicking a Donegal teenager to death were both safely convicted of his killing, the Court of Appeal ruled on Friday.

Judges rejected challenges from Sean Cruickshank and Edward McEleney to being found guilty of murdering Liam Devlin in Derry.

The 19-year-old victim, who was from Burnfoot, suffered fatal brain injuries during the attack in Derry’s Creggan estate in August 2007.

Witnesses said Cruickshank, 24, from Lislane Drive, and Edward McEleney, 25, of Circular Road, both in Derry, had kicked and stamped on his head.

The pair were each sentenced to a minimum 11 years behind bars.

Both men sought to have their murder convictions overturned, with Cruickshank’s lawyers arguing that he should have been allowed to give evidence about an earlier assault he carried out on Liam Devlin’s brother.

Cruickshank had confronted and head-butted John Devlin on the same night.

It was claimed that if full details of his guilty plea to that assault had been put before the jury it would have strengthened his case that he never intended to kill.

But Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan, sitting with Lord Justices Girvan and Coghlin, held that his character was damaged by his behaviour in the earlier incident.

He said: “In our view any benefit to Cruickshank from introducing such evidence was at best marginal and did not affect the safety of the conviction.”

McEleney’s legal team contended that the length and complexity of the trial judge’s charge to the jury rendered the verdict unsafe.

Sir Declan found that prosecution and defence evidence had been “meticulously examined”.

He added: “There may have been some sophisticated language but reading the charge as a whole it was delivered in language that was plainly understandable to any juror.

“We conclude, therefore, that this criticism of the charge did not affect the safety of the conviction.”

All other arguments were also dismissed.

Sir Declan confirmed: “For the reasons given, we do not consider that the convictions are unsafe.”