'unjustifiable' | 

Man who stabbed burglar to death in 'gross overreaction' jailed

Matchett had been charged with murder but eventually pleaded guilty to manslaughter

Stabbed to death: Reece Leeman

Paul Higgins

A man who stabbed a burglar to death in a “gross overreaction” of self defence when two men broke into his home was handed an eight and a half year sentence today.

Ordering David Matchett to serve half of that in jail and half under supervised licence conditions, Craigavon Crown Court Judge Patrick Lynch QC said while he accepted the defendant had been faced with a “frightening and unjustifiable assault” in his own home, nevertheless “the court cannot shy away from the fact that a young man who should have had his whole life to look forward to is now dead.”

Matchett, who turns 31-years-old tomorrow and is from Upper Greenwell Street in Ards, had initially been charged with the murder of Reece Leeman but that was not proceeded after the Crown accepted a guilty plea to manslaughter.

Jailing Matchett, the judge said the case emphasised "the dangers of wielding a knife" where events and the resulting “tragic consequences” can go far beyond initial intentions.

Mr Leeman was just 21-years-old when on 15 March 2019, he and his friend Robert McQuaide, also 21, decided to rob Matchett’s stash of cannabis they knew he kept in his kitchen.

Pulling their clothes up over their faces, McQuaide knocked loudly on the front door of Matchett’s then home on Kyle Street in east Belfast.

As soon as Matchett opened the door, McQuaide "pinned him to the wall” by his throat while his accomplice demanded “give us the weed and no one gets hurt” but when McQuaide went to the kitchen to grab the drugs, the defendant armed himself with a large kitchen knife.

Mr Leeman was stabbed a total of six times but according to a pathologist, the cause of his “rapid death” was a 24cm wound which would’ve required “no more than moderate force” to penetrate his chest wall and his heart.

Jailing Matchett today, Judge Lynch outlined that the plea to the lesser offence of manslaughter had been accepted by the prosecution on the basis that because of the traumatic situation he was faced with, coupled with Matchett’s “intellectual limitations” and diagnosed learning difficulties, “the defendant did not form the necessary intent for murder".

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