Dominic McKilligan, 19, was yesterday jailed for life after Newcastle Crown Court was told how he killed schoolboy Wesley Neailey. The jury took less than three hours to reach its decision. The court had heard that McKilligan, of Bournemouth, Dorset, had befriended the boy and lured him back to a garage where he made sexual advances to him and then hit him with a wrench. He then raped the boy before strangling him, in June last year.
The judge, Mr Justice Bennett, told McKilligan: "No words of mine can adequately express the horror and revulsion of your crimes. You have nerves of steel. You are a dangerous manipulative callous paedophile and killer."
He said he believed the schoolboy had tried to defend himself, as he had been taught by his mother. "His terror at what you were doing to him must have been quite awful for him as you struck him with a ratchet, raped him and closed your hand around his neck and strangled him," he said.
"By your dreadful action you have deprived a loving and devoted family of a son, a brother and a grandson. The family's grief must be heart-rending. I am satisfied that you are a highly dangerous person particularly to young boys."
After the jury reached its verdict, the court heard that in 1994 McKilligan had been convicted at Christchurch Youth Court in Bournemouth and sentenced to a three-year supervision order.
Christopher Knox, for the prosecution, said that as part of the order, McKilligan was sent to a sex-offender's institute in Co Durham. He said if the conviction had been one day later McKilligan would have been brought into the scope of the Sex Offenders Act which took effect on 1 September 1997.
Outside the court yesterday, Detective Superintendent Trevor Fordy, who led the investigation into the murder, said he was "very, very satisfied". "It has not easy for the jury because they did not know the background to Dominic McKilligan," he said.
"Dominic McKilligan, in my view, was a time bomb waiting to go off. Wesley Neailey was an innocent vulnerable little boy who was just in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Mr Fordy paid tribute to Wesley's family who had endured "a month of hell" when the child disappeared in June 1997. He said: "It is not up to me to direct any blame at any other agency. I think we have all got to look at what is currently in place at the moment and see how we can make it better in the future. Perhaps it is the system that is not right and maybe we need to change it. I would never like anything like this to happen again."
Earlier, Patrick Cosgrove QC, for the defence, said that McKilligan had himself been abused for 18 months when he was nine years old. He also criticised the care authorities who had given his client "minimal" support after his release from a young offenders' institute in September 1997. Last night, the Health minister John Hutton said that his department was reviewing the case. "There is deep concern about this tragic case and what appears to be significant shortcomings in the way public authorities handled the care and supervision of Dominic McKilligan," a spokeswoman said.
"A review of the case is currently under way and officials are working closely with the authorities to make sure that the review is completed quickly, gives a full and honest examination of what happened, and includes independent oversight."Reuse content