Girl (12) fought to save mum from ‘shark-eyed’ knife-wielding Co Armagh dad, court told

The girl repeatedly kicked Peter McCartney as he plunged the knife into her mum’s abdomen.

Newry man Peter McCartney repeatedly stabbed his estranged wife

Paul HigginsBelfast Telegraph

A 12-year-old girl fought desperately to save her mother from her knife-wielding father as he stabbed her 19 times, a court has heard.

Details of the horrific case emerged as Newry man Peter McCartney (40) was jailed for 16 years and eights months for attempting to murder his estranged wife Bronagh at her home in November 2020.

The girl repeatedly kicked McCartney as he plunged the knife into her mum’s abdomen.

Miraculously, the victim survived after being helped by a neighbour trained in first aid.

“She [the 12-year-old] kicked him in the face three times to protect her mother, but he continued to stab her and didn’t flinch,” Judge Gordon Kerr KC told Newry Crown Court.

He said the girl described how her father’s eyes “were dead, like a shark” as she fought him.

“I consider this to be an appalling case. It’s hard to imagine a worse case of its type,” he added.

The defence contended McCartney had been suffering from psychosis at the time.

But the judge said given the defendant’s record for violence, particularly domestic violence, and the facts of the case, the idea that he did “not present a significant risk of serious harm to the public offends common sense”.

On the day his trial was due to start last November, McCartney admitted attempting to murder his wife on November 7, 2020.

Judge Kerr said in the two days before the attack there had been an “acrimonious exchange” of messages, where McCartney “conveyed veiled threats” about putting things on Facebook.

On the day of the stabbing, the victim told her ex to “stay away and never to ring her again”. She also warned him their four children “were not going to be a part of your muppet show”.

“He responded by saying, ‘You will see what muppets are made of soon’,” said Judge Kerr.

He added there was a “history of domestic violence” on the part of the defendant, and at the time of the attack, he was on bail for assaulting his ex.

All four children were in the house, food had just been delivered and the victim was on the phone to her sister when McCartney appeared in the living room of the property.

After the woman shouted at him to get out, the 12-year-old heard arguing and left her room to find out what was happening.

Confronted by McCartney standing over her mother at the bottom of the stairs, she fought to protect her. While the other children did not see the attack, they witnessed the aftermath and saw their mother bleeding.

The 12-year-old ran to the house of a neighbour trained in first aid. By the time they had returned, the victim had lost so much blood the neighbour “was slipping as he knelt beside her”.

“His interventions saved her life and he is deserving of public recognition”, said the judge.

The woman was taken to Newry’s Daisy Hill Hospital before being transferred to the intensive care unit at Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital, where she spent a month in sedation and on a ventilator.

She sustained a total of 19 stab wounds, including a number so deep they fractured ribs and perforated her stomach, colon, diaphragm and spleen. She was also left deeply traumatised and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Judge Kerr said she experienced “terrible nightmares” about the attack.

McCartney was found hiding in a neighbour’s garden after the murder bid.

Police enquiries established he had scouted out this spot a week earlier.

It transpired he had taken a knife from his apartment and walked the two miles to his victim’s home.

Judge Kerr said the clear premeditation was an aggravating features, as was McCartney’s record for violence.

He said while he would be granted credit for his guilty plea, he had also refused to answer police questions, had gone through three legal teams ahead of the trial and had only admitted his guilt at the eleventh hour.

Judge Kerr told the court he would have imposed a 20-year sentence without the guilty plea.

Although he could have imposed a discretionary life sentence, it was his view an extended custodial sentence was adequate to protect the public.

McCartney was given 16 years and eight months in prison, with an extended licence period of four years, meaning that rather than being automatically freed at the halfway point of his term, parole officers will have to consider if it is safe to release him.

Potentially, he could be in jail or under supervision until 2041.

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