Familes weep as court hears graphic account of Tandragee murders

THE families of Portadown murder victims Andrew Robb and David McIlwaine wept in court on Monday as they heard a former co-accused turned 'supergrass' give an horrific account of the friends' deaths.

Mark Burcombe, (28), from Ballynahinch Road in Lisburn, gave evidence at Belfast Crown Court against Steven Leslie Brown, also known as Stephen Revels, who denies the charges.

Burcombe had originally been charged with the murders but turned 'Queen's evidence' earlier this year, and pleaded guilty to conspiring to cause grievous bodily harm to Andrew Robb and received a 30-month jail term.

Friends Andrew, (19), and 18-year old David were driven to a remote road on the outskirts of Tandragee on February 19, 2000, where they were repeatedly stabbed. They suffered multiple stab wounds including horrific injuries to their throats and stomachs.

The victims' families were clearly shaken as Burcombe described in graphic detail how the accused, Steven Brown, of Castle Place in Castlecaulfield, allegedly beat and kicked David, while another man, Noel Dillion, who took his own life in 2005, cut the teenager's throat with a butcher's knife.

Giving evidence at Brown's trial, Burcombe claimed that after the accused had stabbed David he got back in his car, and said, "if you open your mouth I'll cut your f****** throat".

The young victims were lured to their deaths after Andrew allegedly made a disparaging comment about the murder of local man Richard Jameson, who was described in court as a 'commander of the UVF in Portadown'.

Burcombe told prosecuting QC Gordon Kerr that himself, Brown, a man named as Noel Dillon and the two teenagers, had been in Brown's house drinking when Dillon asked about what they thought of Jameson being murdered.

Burcombe claimed Andrew was the only one to answer and said "'so f****** what, it's got f*** all to do with me'" and when told by Dillon that Jameson had been a friend of his, Andrew "sat forward in the seat and said 'f*** him'...in an aggressive manner".


He told the court that following the comment, there were "tensions" in the house and Brown had allegedly said he was going to "punch the head off" Andrew.

"He looked determined, furious in a way. I just said go for it. I wasn't bothered about what happened because it didn't involve me," Burcombe claimed.

After this happened, Burcombe claimed Dillon and Brown left the house but returned about half an hour later and asked everyone if they were "up for" getting more drink and some drugs, adding it was then that all five got into Brown's Peugeot 205 car and drove to the deserted laneway.

When they got there, Burcombe claimed that Brown ordered everyone out of the car but that Andrew was asleep in the back seat.

Burcombe said that after he got out of the car and urinated into a bush, he met David in the middle of the road and told him "come on, we will take a walk down and see if where this house is", claiming that he "suspected that this was where Steven Revels would commit the assault on Andrew Robb".

Asked if he could remember hearing anything after Brown and Dillon went to the car, Burcombe claimed he couldn't recall hearing anything but added, "I don't know if I have blocked that out".

Burcombe then claimed that as he walked with David, he told him that Brown and Dillon wanted to "give Andrew Robb a beating for slabbering about Richard Jameson" but added "don't worry about it, it's nothing to do with you".

However, he outlined that as he was walking on down the road with David, Brown and Dillon came "walking down with a swagger, like a hard man's walk".

Burcombe claimed that David tried to run but either tripped or had fallen and as he looked on, Brown had started to "kick and stamp on David McIlwaine's head and body" and added that as David tried to get up, Brown kicked him in the side of the head.

Asked to describe the nature of the kicks, Burcombe told Mr Kerr, "It was like him running up and taking a penalty kick at a football match. He was kicking him so hard at one point David McIlwaine was actually moving on the ground."

He claimed that as David lay motionless on the ground, he saw Dillon walk over to him, drop to his knees and produce the knife from the sleeve of his top.

Burcombe further alleges that as he looked on from about five feet away, he saw Dillon make "sawing motions" at David's throat while Brown stood by shouting "kill the bastard, cut his f****** throat".

Mr Kerr asked Burcombe if he tried to intervene but he said he had not, fearing that if he did "they would have murdered me" and so he got back into Brown's car "in fear, just panicking".

He told the court that as the three went to drive away from the scene, Brown allegedly said he wanted to "run over the b******* head" but that Dillon told him not to.

However Burcombe claimed Brown stopped the car beside where David lay on the ground. with a "wheezing" noise coming from him before getting out, holding the butcher's knife in a clenched fist.

"I could just hear continuous thuds. After the second or third thud the noise stopped. Steven Revels was grunting as he was doing it," Burcombe claimed.

He told the court that after Brown got back into the car and handed the knife to Dillon, "he just seemed crazed" with the alleged killer declaring, "I'm buzzing, that gave me some buzz. I forgot what it was like to kill."


Burcombe told the court, "He (Brown) said to Noel Dillon that he had saw David McIlwaine looking at him and he stuck the knife into his eye. He said it made the same noise as gutting a fish and said when he pulled the knife out he thought David McIlwaine's head was going to come off with the knife. He seemed like he was loving it, as if he was real proud of himself, that he had done something real great."

He added that Brown later told him "he had done the stomachs and Noel had done the throats".

It was at this stage that Brown allegedly issued his threat to Burcombe that if he told anyone about what he had seen, he would cut his throat.

Burcombe said this threat was repeated the next day when Brown allegedly told him that if he could not cut his throat, then he would kill a member of his family instead, and told him that if anyone asked about the previous night, "just say you were drinking in my house last night with Noel and me, you can give us an alibi".

The witness told Mr Kerr that in 2005, his life came to a point where "I knew I had to do the right thing" and tell police what he had allegedly seen happen to the teenagers and it was then that he told them the full extent of what happened.

At the very start of the cross examination from defence QC John McCrudden, it was firmly suggested to Burcombe that his account was a lie and told the witness, "you are a murderer - you murdered these two young men" but he denied that, telling the lawyer, "No, no. All I wanted to do was to tell the police I didn't murder anybody".