Axe murder youth convicted on his 15th birthday

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The Independent Online

A Londonderry teenager has been convicted of hacking a father-of-three to death with an axe on his 15th birthday.

Martin Stokes (16) is set to be handed a life sentence for his role in a horrific attack on John Mongan who was butchered in his own bedroom in front of his heavily pregnant wife.

The youth, from the Old Fort in Derry, appeared at Belfast Crown Court yesterday where he was convicted of Mr Mongan’s murder by a jury’s majority verdict of 10 to two.

The verdict came a day after the teen’s two uncles were unanimously found guilty by the same jury of hacking 30-year-old Mr Mongan to death in his Fallswater Street home in west Belfast in the early hours of February 7 last year.

Mr Mongan suffered up to 40 wounds in the savage attack which a pathologist told the jury would have caused “torrential bleeding”. The expert witness said that even after the victim was dead the three killers continued to land blows on his legs and body with weapons such as an axe, a sword or machete.

Brothers Christopher Stokes (38) and Edward Stokes (34), found guilty of Mr Mongan’s murder on Tuesday, heckled the victim’s family sitting in court after their nephew was convicted yesterday. All three were also found guilty of causing criminal damage to Mr Mongan’s Mitsubushi 4x4, while Edward Stokes was convicted of wounding the victim’s wife Julia Mongan with intent.

Trial judge Mr Justice Treacy lifted reporting restrictions on identifying Martin Stokes, whose name was not published throughout the long-running trial.

It can now be revealed that the teenager murdered the father-of-three on his 15th birthday.

As the three killers were led to the cells yesterday Edward Stokes gave a two-fingered gesture to the Mongan family, sitting just feet away, similar to what his brother did on Tuesday after he was convicted. When he was led to the cells handcuffed to a prison guard, Christopher Stokes gestured to the cheering Mongan family and told them: “I'll do me time but he (Mr Mongan) will never be back.”

Mr Justice Treacy told the trio there was only one sentence permitted by law and that was “one of life imprisonment”.

Outside the court family and friends of the murdered man held his picture aloft while his wife Julia said “justice has been done”.

“It will never bring him back but at least I can rear his children to make him proud,” Mrs Mongan said.

All three killers were remanded into custody and will be sentenced next month when probation reports have been completed.

* Source: The Belfast Telegraph