Life sentences for paedophiles who killed woman

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The Independent Online

Two paedophiles were jailed for life today for the murder of a woman almost 13 years ago who they believed intended to tell authorities about their abuse of a boy.

At the High Court in Glasgow today Charles O'Neill, 47, was ordered to serve a minimum of 30 years and William Lauchlan, 33, a minimum 26 years for murdering Allison McGarrigle and dumping her body at sea in 1997.

They were also jailed for 10 years each for the sexual abuse of boys aged six and 14 of which they were found guilty last month at the same court.

Sentencing the pair, Lord Pentland said: "It is clear that you are both dangerous and determined predatory paedophiles and that you now represent a high risk to the safety of the public."

The men were brought to trial after a multi-force investigation led to their arrest in March 2008.

Officers from Strathclyde, Fife, Central Scotland and Lancashire were all involved in the operation.

Strathclyde Assistant Chief Constable Ruaraidh Nicolson, who was in overall command of the inquiry, said: "Two extremely dangerous individuals have been removed from our communities as a result of police forces combining to work in the interests of protecting the public.

Video: Life for killer paedophiles

"O'Neill and Lauchlan were devious, manipulative and highly dangerous. They were willing to kill to ensure their activities did not come to the attention of the authorities.

"The work carried out by the Fife, Central Scotland, Strathclyde and Lancashire forces combined intelligence-gathering with focused investigative work and intensive evidence gathering which ultimately led to their convictions.

"The scale of these operations cannot be underestimated. Dozens of officers from the forces worked around the clock, using every means at their disposal, to stop these men from targeting the vulnerable."

Outside court the victim's son Robert McGarrigle said he was "over the moon" with the sentence.

He said: "Lauchlan and O'Neill have taken away the best mum in the world.

"Allison McGarrigle was a bubbly, happy woman with a heart of gold.

"She loved children and she was taken away from us trying to protect a young boy from abuse.

"For many years we have had to live with not knowing what had happened to her, but we knew she was not missing.

"If she was still alive she would not have left her three kids and missed out on watching her four grandchildren growing up.

"We miss her terribly and wish that we could lay her to rest."

Scott Pattison, the Crown Office director of operations, said it was "chillingly clear" that the pair were "sexual predators who were willing to kill to secure access to children and abuse them for their own gratification".

He said: "Allison had tried to defend a young boy from abuse at their hands. To silence her, Lauchlan and O'Neill threatened her, held her against her will, murdered her and then disposed of her body.

"Her body has still not yet been recovered; as a result, her family has not been able to lay her to rest since her disappearance in 1997. We can only imagine the depth of their sorrow.

"Our prosecution teams in Ayrshire and Central have been tireless in their efforts to bring both these men to justice for their crimes.

"Now that Lauchlan and O'Neill have been convicted, justice has been done and in this we hope that the families of all those who have suffered find some degree of comfort."

The jury took nine hours to find the pair guilty of murder and defeating the ends of justice after a trial of almost four weeks.

There were whispers of "yes" from the public gallery as the verdicts were read out and calls of "beasts" as the pair were led to the cells.

Lauchlan and O'Neill were convicted of murdering Mrs McGarrigle believing she intended to report them to the authorities for sexually abusing a boy for three years beforehand.

They murdered the mother at Waterside Street in Largs, Ayrshire, by seizing hold of her neck and compressing her throat.

The pair were also found guilty of attempting to defeat the ends of justice between June 21 1997 and September 1 1997 by hiding Mrs McGarrigle's body under rocks on Largs beach, putting it in a bin or similar container, then taking it onto a boat and dumping it at sea.

During the course of the trial, the court heard from a witness who said O'Neill told him Mrs McGarrigle was "feeding the fishes" and pointed to the Firth of Clyde.

The pair had denied the charges and O'Neill had lodged a special defence of incrimination, saying that if a murder was committed, it was carried out by another man.

It can also be reported for the first time today that the pair were also found guilty of sexual abuse of children last month at the same court. Reporting restrictions prevented this from being reported until the end of the murder trial.

O'Neill was found guilty of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old boy after drugging him in 2003.

Both men were found guilty of sexually abusing a 14-year-old boy, locking him in a wardrobe and urinating on him in a motor home in Spain in 2004 and intentionally meeting a six-year-old boy intending to engage in unlawful sexual activity with him, between December 2007 and March 2008.

The family of the six-year-old groomed by Lauchlan and O'Neill today told how they were taken in by the pair.

They said in a statement: "Lauchlan and O'Neill befriended us through a third party and they seemed like a genuine couple.

"When they showered us with gifts, we began to suspect their motives and we contemplated phoning the police. We decided not to; a decision we regretted after finding out who they really were.

"We would like to urge any family who suspects anyone who has contact with children to please get in touch with the police.

"We would also give our heartfelt gratitude towards the police for their time and effort towards the case and support our family have received and continue to receive."

Sentencing the pair, Lord Pentland said: "You now stand convicted by the jury of the despicable murder of Mrs Allison McGarrigle and of disposing of her body at sea, and you have been convicted by another jury of other serious charges involving sexual abuse of a young boy and the grooming of a six-year-old boy with the intention of abusing him.

"When you became aware that Mrs McGarrigle intended to report you, you conceived of a callous and depraved plan to murder her and dispose of her body.

"You must have thought for some time that you had succeeded in escaping detection and to this day Mrs McGarrigle's body has never been recovered."

He sentenced them to eight years each for attempting to defeat the ends of justice, and 10 years for each of the sex abuse charges, all to run concurrently.

The pair also have a string of previous convictions dating back to the late 1990s.

In 1998 they were jailed for abusing youngsters at their Clyde coast den after luring them with drink and drugs.

O'Neill was sentenced to eight years at the High Court in Glasgow for sexual abuse charges, with three years imposed for supplying cannabis to the boys which ran concurrently.

Lauchlan was jailed for six years for sex charges and three years, concurrently, for drugs supply.