Murderer runs off to leave wife in jail cell

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A manhunt has been launched to find a killer who absconded as a jury found him guilty of the merciless murder of a Londonderry father after a family wedding.

James Meehan jumped bail and left his wife and stepson to face a life sentence in prison for their role in the savage beating of 42-year-old Jim McFadden.

The victim’s family cheered and clapped in court yesterday as Meehan, his wife Brenda and her son Sean Devenney were found guilty of murdering the father in a savage attack outside his Shantallow in home in 2007. The father-of-four was repeatedly punched so hard in the chest he died from a ruptured heart.

While Mrs Meehan and her son were in court to hear the jury find them unanimously guilty of the killing, James Meehan, a principal player in the relentless attack, was on the run for a second day.

A bench warrant for his immediate arrest was issued by Mr |Justice McCloskey following yesterday's convictions and the PSNI have confirmed they are looking for the heartless killer.

The three defendants were guests at the wedding of a sister-in-law of the victim and the fatal attack came after they had all returned from the reception in Co Donegal on a bus. His heartbroken widow Ita was a bridesmaid at the wedding.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph moments after a jury delivered their unanimous verdicts, Mrs McFadden said: “They killed an innocent man so this is brilliant, we are delighted.

“However, we’ll never get over this. You never get over something like that. The last couple of years have been up and down, real highs and lows. It is something you learn to live with.”

The McFadden family also released a statement following yesterday’s hearing in which they thanked everyone involved in bringing the case to court, as well as supporting them since the |murder.

Mrs McFadden said: “On behalf of my children, myself, Jim's mother and sisters, we would just like to say how pleased we all are at the outcome of today's verdict. We hope and pray that justice will be done when sentencing occurs.

“We would like to thank the judge who presided over the trial, and the jury for coming to the right decision following the brutal murder of my darling husband, daddy, son and brother.

“We would like to thank the PSNI who have worked tirelessly on this case. Also, a special word of thanks to the initial police who arrived at the scene, the senior investigating officer DCI Frankie Taylor, Jimmy McConaghie, family liaison officer Michelle Colhoun, Donna McConaghie and Hazel Miller, who have been a rock to us throughout everything.

“To the prosecution team for their dedication and hard work, to all the team at Victim Support, we would like to thank everyone who came forward and gave evidence over this 11 week period. We will be forever grateful for your help.

“To the paramedics who worked with Jim at the scene, and finally we would like to thank the people of the Shantallow for all their kindness and support, especially the residents. We hope we haven't forgotten about anyone, but we really appreciate all your help and support at this trying time.”

The devastating death of Gentle Jim

The murder of Jim McFadden is one that grabbed headlines as details of his horrific death at the hands of three family members emerged.

Not only were the father-of-four’s desperate pleas for help ignored as he lay helpless on the ground, a crutch belonging to Mr McFadden’s teenage daughter — present at the time of the vicious assault and herself injured in the attack — was used to inflict the fatal beating.

Mr McFadden’s son also sustained a broken arm in the frenzy.

Police investigating the murder took the unusual step of assembling and interviewing guests from a wedding Mr McFadden attended just hours before his death, attracting more than 100 people keen to help bring the killers to justice — something that demonstrated the depth of revulsion felt by people at the killing.

Speaking at the time, a family friend who attended the evidence gathering event said: “It's shock. You wouldn't do this to a dog, the fella wouldn't hurt a fly. Gentle Jim we called him.”

He also revealed that police asked guests with cameras at the wedding to hand them in to be examined in case they contained vital clues.

Within days of the attack, James Meehan, his wife Brenda Meehan and her son Sean Devenney were all questioned by detectives and subsequently charged with the murder of Mr McFadden.

Meanwhile, Mr McFadden’s heartbroken family were left to pick up the pieces following the attack.

Hundreds of mourners gathered for the funeral of Mr McFadden, where Fr Eamonn Graham paid tribute to the father-of-four as a “simple, hard-working man who loved his wife and children”.

Mr McFadden’s widow Ita also spoke of her “horrendous” pain at the evidence gathering session and revealed that her children had been receiving counselling in the wake of the attack. She explained: “Jim lived for me and the children and it is hard to take in that he is gone. They are crying every night and there’s nothing I can do or say.”

Fr Graham said their grief was magnified by the fact that they witnessed the murder.

“It’s very difficult for them as I am sure you can imagine. To lose a husband and for children to lose a father is hard enough without actually witnessing what happened,” he said.

* Source: Belfast Telegraph.