'worst nightmare'  | 

'Callous' killer who murdered mum-of-three jailed for 22 years

"We have a life sentence. A life sentence without our Jennifer. A daughter, sister and mother.2

Allison Morris

A “callous” killer who murdered a mother-of-three in west Belfast has been jailed for a minimum of 22 years.

Jennifer Dornan was found dead in her burnt-out home in Lagmore in 2015.

In April Raymond Martin Gabriel O’Neill (44) was found guilty of her murder and arson. A jury unanimously convicted him of both charges.

On Friday a judge sentenced O’Neill to serve a minimum of 22 years before he is eligible for release.

O’Neill also received an indeterminate sentence with a minimum of seven years for setting fire to Jennifer’s home.

Afterwards her family said: “No sentence today can ever be enough for what he did.

“We have a life sentence. A life sentence without our Jennifer. A Daughter, sister and mother.

“Jennifer was a brilliant mum, who has been robbed of the chance to see her children grow up. Her children miss their mum, and will grow up without her.

“It is nearly seven years since Jennifer was killed. To us, it feels like it was yesterday.”

In an act described as "every woman's worst nightmare", O'Neill followed Ms Dornan to her Hazel View home in the early hours of August 2 2015.

Once inside, he stabbed Ms Dornan three times in the chest with a knife he took from her kitchen, then set her bedroom on fire in a bid to destroy forensic evidence.

After murdering the 30-year old, O'Neill dumped the murder weapon in a garden close to Ms Dornan's home then went on a drinking binge in Belfast before fleeing Donegal, where he was arrested five days after her death.

During the trial, O'Neill claimed he suffered from memory loss after being poisoned by prison staff in Dublin.

He said he didn't kill Ms Dornan - despite claiming to have no memory of the weekend in question - and told the jury "take it from me, I didn't kill anybody. I'd like to think anybody who killed somebody could remember it."

His claims of innocence were rejected by the jury, who returned unanimous guilty verdicts on both charges.

O'Neill - who at the time was 37 and living in a bedsit at Amcomri Street in Belfast - was handed a life sentence in April by trial judge Mr Justice Scoffield.

Yesterday O’Neill was sentenced for what the judge termed a "barbaric and brutal" murder.

He was told that he will serve a minimum jail term of 22 years in prison before he is considered eligible for release by the Parole Commissioners.

Afterwards PSNI Detective Superintendent Eamonn Corrigan said: “This was an atrocious, senseless and cold-blooded attack. It left a family devastated and three young children – two boys and a girl – without their mother.

“The arson, which was O’Neill’s attempt to cover his tracks, added to their heartbreak. It left an innocent young woman’s body unrecognisable and a family home destroyed.”

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