Horrific | 

Double killer Steven McBrine was a 'ticking time-bomb' with long history of violence

David Dutton, the brother of slain Joseph Dutton, said McBrine’s record proves that he was a danger to the public

Steven McBrine

Ciaran Barnes

Double killer Steven McBrine was a ”ticking time-bomb” with a history of violent assaults in the years before he stabbed and beat two friends to death.

The thug — jailed for a minimum of 11 years for the Christmas 2019 manslaughter of Frances Murray (37) and Joseph Dutton (38) — had only been released from prison weeks before.

McBrine had been banged up for the previous three years for an assault on a drinking pal who he left in a coma.

The 38-year-old repeatedly kicked and stamped on his victim’s head, leaving him with life-changing injuries.

He was later convicted of GBH with intent, moving to a flat complex on Kinnaird Close in north Belfast next to Frances and Joseph after he was freed.

This was sadistic McBrine’s third spell behind bars — he served an earlier sentence for a horrific 2011 attack on a man in Derry to which he pleaded guilty to GBH with intent.

In 2004, when the double killer was only 20 years old, he was caged for three assaults in Belfast city centre, attempted robbery, disorderly behaviour and using a broken bottle as a makeshift weapon.

David Dutton, the brother of slain Joseph Dutton, said McBrine’s record proves that he was a danger to the public.

He also questioned why the double killer had murder charges reduced to manslaughter, given how he carried out a prolonged attack on his defenceless victims, and in Frances’ case cut her throat with a broken bottle.

Prosecutors say the decision was taken on the grounds of diminished responsibility because of his alcohol dependence.

“Not enough was done to highlight this, about how a murder charge can be reduced to manslaughter because someone is an alcoholic,” said a clearly frustrated David.

Victims Frances Murray and Joseph Dutton

Because of time served on remand, McBrine has just eight and half years of his 11-year minimum term left to complete for the double manslaughter.

Sources close to the case described him as a “ticking time-bomb” with a long history of violence. One added that it was “not surprising” he ended up taking a life.

McBrine had spent 23 December, 2019 — the day of the double killing — drinking with his victims. In a state of paranoia because of the amount of alcohol and drugs he had taken, the thug wrongly accused Frances Murray of stealing £100 from him.

He called to her adjoining flat on several occasions during the early hours of the morning, before beating and stabbing her to death on the final visit at 10.45am.

Emergency services who attended the property also found Joseph Dutton dead inside. He had bleeding on the brain, his ribs were broken, his organs punctured and his voice box was badly damaged.

Frances had similar injuries, as well as a stab wound to her throat caused by a broken vodka bottle.

By this stage, police had launched a manhunt for McBrine, who was arrested that day foaming at the mouth near the Cliftonville Road, having attempted to overdose on tablets.

The scene of the attack in north Belfast. Photo: Kevin Scott

Jailing him, Mr Justice O’Brien said: “He killed two people who, on the evidence, did not attack him in any way.

“Ms Murray and Mr Dutton both died from blunt force trauma of the head and from compression of the neck — in other words, not just one cause of death but two.

Ms Murray was repeatedly stabbed in the neck, exactly as the defendant had threatened.

“At no point was he under attack and at no point did either Ms Murray or Mr Dutton mount any effort to fight him off.”

Defending its decision to downgrade the charges against McBrine from murder to manslaughter, the Public Prosecution Service said: “In the course of this case, medical reports by two psychiatrists confirmed that the defendant suffered from an abnormality of mental functioning due to a diagnosis of mixed personality disorder and alcohol dependence.

“In the circumstances, and in line with the legislation on diminished responsibility, the Test for Prosecution was no longer met in respect of the offence of murder, and the legal test for manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility was met.”

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