A man and woman have been handed life sentences by one of Northern Ireland’s most senior judges today after they were both found guilty of murdering a disabled man and dumping his body in a wheelie bin.
Following a trial that lasted five weeks, Stephen Thomas Hughes (29) and Shaunean Boyle (25) were found unanimously guilty by a jury of murdering Lurgan man Owen Creaney.
The vulnerable 40-year old – who was known by the nickname Fonzie – was brutally and mercilessly beaten in the hallway of Hughes’s Moyraverty Court home in Craigavon in the early hours of Thursday July 3, 2014.
In the aftermath of the savage assault, during which Mr Creaney sustained over 60 injuries including a broken breastbone and 15 fractures to his ribs as well as severe head injuries, the pair carried him upstairs.
There, he was showered after wetting himself, changed, and placed on a sofa in a bedroom.
The duo then left Mr Creaney in the room for two days, before he succumbed to fatal head and chest wounds.
Once dead, Hughes and Boyle then slid Mr Creaney’s remains into a green recycling wheelie bin which was then brought back down the stairs and left at the rear of the property.
As the verdicts were announced in court today, Hughes showed very little emotion and stared ahead.
Meanwhile while Boyle broke down in tears.
The pair will find out next month how longa life sentence they will have to serve in prison before they are eligible for release.
Just before the verdict was passed at Belfast Crown Court, Mr Justice Treacy warned there should be “no outbursts when the jury deliver their verdicts”.
Despite this, a relative of Boyle’s stood up, verbally abused Hughes and shouted to him “stop acting, tell the truth” when they were both handed a life sentence.
Boyle – who cried frequently throughout the trial – spoke to Hughes for the first time since the case commenced.
She turned to him as they both said in the dock and said “look at what you have done”.
And as they were both being led away in handcuffs, she said to Hughes: “Have you no conscience on you at all?”
During the trial, the jury heard evidence from several witnesses who saw Mr Creaney in the upstairs bedroom.
One woman said that when she raised concerns about the state of the man lying in the room, she was told he was an alcoholic sleeping off the drink.
Both women who saw Mr Creaney lying in the bedroom told Hughes and Boyle that he needed medical attention.
An ambulance was never called.
Mr Creaney, who was five feet six and just over seven stone, died some time in the early hours of Saturday July 5 of blunt force trauma to his head and chest.
The jury also heard that during the two-day period when Mr Creaney lay dying, both Boyle’s infant son and Hughes’s son were in the house at certain stages.
His remains were found, and Boyle and Hughes arrested, after a friend of Boyle raised the alarm on the morning of Saturday July 5th, 2014.
Hughes, whose address was given as HMP Maghaberry, and co-accused Boyle, from Edenderry Park in Banbridge, both admitted they were in the house with Mr Creaney, but both denied attacking him and instead blamed each other for the violence.
The deadly assault was carried out after all three had been on what Mr Justice Treacey described as a “bender”.
Hughes claimed that he witnessed Boyle stamp all over Mr Creaney and that he tried to stop the attack, whilst Boyle claimed Hughes solely carried out a vicious attack using his fists and feet.
She also claimed that she took both a dumb-bell and a knife off him during the incident.
In contrast to their differing version of what happened, it has always been the Crown’s case that the pair attacked Mr Creaney together, then tried to cover up what they had done by painting blood-splattered walls and mopping blood from the floor.
After the jury of six women and five men delivered their verdicts, Mr Justice Treacy addressed Hughes and Boyle in the dock and said: “As required by law, in light of the verdict each of you has been sentenced to life imprisonment.”
The judge then ordered pre-sentence reports be compiled on each of the defendants, as well as victim impact reports on behalf of the Creaney family, who have travelled from Lurgan to Belfast to attend every day of the five week trial.
Today, like every other day of the trial, they maintained dignity and remained silent as they sat in the public gallery – just yards from their loved one’s killers.
Mr Justice Treacy set the date for the tariff hearing for November 18th, before telling prison staff: “The defendants can be taken down”.