Co Down man David Robert Boyd, who ignored the pleas for mercy from his friend Gerard Scullion as he battered and knifed him to death, was today told he will serve a minimum of 12 years in jail.
Mr Justice Colton told 29-year-old Boyd, from Scarva Walk in Banbridge, that this is the minimum period he will spend behind bars before he is considered eligible for release by the Paroles Commission, after he admitted murdering his 55-year-old friend last summer.
Mr Scullion was killed on the evening on Friday July 6 last year, and his body was found three days later lying face-down in a pool of dried blood in the kitchen of his Millmount Court home.
Newry Crown Court heard last week that Boyd later told police that during his deadly attack, first with a frying pan, then with his fists and feet, Gerard pleaded: ‘I’ve had enough’.
But Boyd ignored his pleas and picked up a 19.5cm-long black-handled kitchen knife, and repeatedly stabbed him.
Handing Boyd a minimum sentence of 12 years, Mr Justice Colton said: “It is clear that Gerard was a man of great compassion and kindness to others, particularly the homeless. Indeed, it was this feature of his personality which endeared him to the defendant Mr Boyd, and was the basis for their friendship.
“All needless and senseless losses of life are tragic. Gerard’s death was particularly as it was caused by someone he befriended and helped, something the defendant himself acknowledges.”
Prosecution QC Neil Connor had told the court, sitting in Belfast, a post mortem subsequently revealed the popular Mr Scullion sustained stab wounds to his back and neck, as well as several to his chest – one of which penetrated his aortic artery.
Mr Scullion, whom Boyd himself described as ‘kind .. and .. lovely’, also sustained extensive bruising to his face and fractured ribs which were consistent with being stamped on or punched whilst on the ground.
Mr Connor said Boyd’s guilty plea was ‘welcomed’ and whilst Boyd had a criminal record which included violence, his remorse was genuine and at the time of the murder he was suffering from a mental disorder.
Counsel said the pair had met about two years earlier, and on that fateful night, had been drinking as they watched television and listening to music. However, the mood apparently changed when another male called to the house.
Mr Scullion allegedly accused Boyd of ‘bringing trouble to his door’ before going into the kitchen. In his police confession Boyd further claimed Mr Scullion turned around, his fists clenched, and perceiving it as a threat, Boyd lifted a frying pan and struck him on the head.
Mr Connor said that as Mr Scullion lay on the floor, Boyd continued the attack with punches and kicks. At one stage Mr Scullion appeared to say ‘I’ve had enough’ but Boyd then grabbed a knife, knelt on the other man’s body and stabbed him several times.
After leaving Mr Scullion, described in a letter by his mother Margaret as “a very friendly man and very popular with his many friends who have said his presence lit up the room with his humour and great wit,” Boyd hid the murder knife, along with his shirt and shoes by the nearby River Bann.
Defence QC Patrick Lyttle described the killing as a tragedy, all the more compounded by the fact Mr Scullion was one of the few people to offer kindness and support to his client.
Boyd told police ‘he was a family man, he was a kind man. He was kind to me, he was kind to everyone and I have ruined it for them. He was a lovely, lovely man. When I was stuck, he would help me out. He would help anyone out. He would gave you his last penny if he had it.’
Mr Lyttle said Boyd was “an isolated young man” who didn’t know his father and who was abandoned by his mother, which led to periods in care. The barrister said Boyd was leading an “entirely feckless and transient lifestyle”, has mental health issues and also has problems with drink, drugs, self-harming and anger management.
The barrister also said it was Boyd’s “long and deep-seated problems” with anger, that led to the “spontaneous fracas”, and in the rage he “could not control .. the person who ended up giving him help, he ended up killing.”
Mr Justice Colton said he accepted Boyd’s remorse was genuine, and that at the time of the murder, he was suffering from a mental disorder. He also noted Boyd’s propensity for violence, which was reflected in his criminal record which included multiple assaults with weapons.
As he sentenced Boyd, the Judge said: “I recognise that the loss of Mr Scullion’s life cannot be measured by the length of a prison sentence. There is no minimum tariff I can impose that will cure the anguish and sense of loss endured by Mr Scullion’s friends and family.”
In a statement, Mr Scullion’s mother Margaret said: “The mother, sisters, son Nathan and the family circle of the late Richard Gerard Scullion RIP thank most sincerely the investigative and legal teams, and also the Liaison Officer and his team, all of whom dealt with Gerard’s case not statistically but with humanity and professionalism, and for this we are very appreciative.”
The senior investigating officer in the case, Detective Chief Inspector Eamonn Corrigan, said: “This was a sickening attack on a man in his own home – a place he should have felt safe. Gerard welcomed David Boyd into his company. He considered him a friend but David Boyd cast this aside and murdered him.
“It was a sustained and lengthy knife attack during which Gerard was stabbed multiple times in the back as he lay defenceless, face down on the floor.
“Gerard was a kind, family man, who was well liked within the local community. It was clear how well he was thought of, by the support we received from local residents in assisting us with our enquiries during the investigation and we would like to thank them for that.
“This was an extremely effective investigation which included interviews carried out by experienced detectives and evidence gathering which resulted in the conviction of David Boyd. These interviews, supported by evidence from searches, CCTV and witnesses, led to David Boyd eventually admitting what he did.
“It was only when confronted with evidence linking him to the murder that David Boyd admitted his guilt and expressed remorse and this has prevented Gerard’s family from the distress of a lengthy and painful trial.
“However that said, today’s sentencing won’t bring Gerard back to his family and friends and does not justify the ferocity of David Boyd’s unprovoked attack on his friend.
“David Boyd is now behind bars and hopefully this will provide some comfort to Gerard’s family and the wider community.”