Four men convicted of the brutal sectarian murder of a Catholic schoolboy were today starting life sentences behind bars.
Almost three years after his death, the four Ballymena men were jailed for a collective total of 45 years for the murder of 15-year-old Michael McIlveen.
Sentencing the four men at Antrim Crown Court, Judge Seamus Treacy said a “lethal cocktail of drugs, drink, youth and sectarianism” provided the context for the schoolboy’s brutal murder.
Michael was beaten with a baseball bat and kicked around 60 times in an alley in Ballymena in 2006.
The teenager, known as ‘Mickeybo’ to his friends, was attacked after buying a pizza. He had been on a life-support machine at Antrim Area Hospital where his family had been at his bedside.
Today at Antrim Crown Court, Christopher Francis Kerr (22), of Carnduff Drive, was jailed for a minimum of 13 years, Jeff Colin Lewis (20) of Rossdale and Aaron Cavana Wallace (20) of Moat Road were each jailed for 11 years, and Mervyn Wilson Moon (20) was jailed for 10 years for murder.
Lewis, Kerr and Wallace were all convicted of murder following a lengthy trial. Moon had pleaded guilty to murder at the start of the trial in September 2008.
The judge imposed the highest sentence on Kerr, stating that he had gone to “considerable trouble” to secure the baseball bat which was used in the attack and that he |had indicated no remorse for his role in the murder and has failed to accept any responsibility.
He added that in the case of Lewis and Wallace, there is “no clear evidence of remorse or contrition”.
He said that Moon, however, had demonstrated remorse. Mr Justice Treacy also told the court that Moon had been drinking and taking drugs from the age of 12 and that on the day of the murder he had taken five cannabis joints, three bottles of WKD and half a bottle of vodka.
It is understood the other accused had also consumed alcohol. The judge said that indulgence in drink and drugs are choices that people make and that when those choices are made “the individuals are emphatically responsible for the actions that flow from such unwise choices”.
In a family impact statement produced to the court, Michael’s mother Gina told of her heartbreak over her son’s death and said she was very proud of him.
She said: “For anyone to have their son taken from them so suddenly is a horrendous experience. For it to occur in such a violent manner and the public attention that followed only magnifies this.
“It has been extremely difficult trying to make any sense of what happened to Michael that night. My health has suffered and there have been times when I have not been able to cope. We sympathise with the families of those convicted in connection with Michael’s murder. We would not wish any other parent or family to experience what our family has gone through over the past three years. Michael was a brilliant wee fella and we were very close. He was happy go lucky and always had a big smile. He made me so proud to see the young man he grew into and I just hope he realises how much we all love and miss him.”
Three other Ballymena men were also in the dock today for sentencing in connection with the murder. Christopher Andrew McLeister of Knock Crescent, who was found guilty of manslaughter, received a three year sentence, suspended for two years.
Paul Edward David Henson of Condiere Avenue was sentenced to nine months for affray and criminal damage, and Peter McMullan (18) from Meadowvale in the town received a conditional discharge after he admitted a charge of criminal damage.
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