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Man who cycled around Belfast stabbing random women in ‘violent rampage’ is jailed

The judge said: "There is a need to protect women from violence by men such as the defendant."

Horror: Police at the scene of one of the stabbings in the Donegall Square West area of Belfast. Pic: Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Ashleigh McDonald

A man who cycled around Belfast stabbing random women because he had been slighted by a female earlier that day has been handed a sentence totalling 12 years.

Six women were attacked by Dermott McIlveen in October 2020 in what Judge Patrick Kinney QC described as a "violent rampage."

McIlveen appeared at Belfast Crown Court via a videolink with Maghaberry, where it emerged he was arrested after family members who saw a police appeal about the attacks contacted the PSNI.

From Carrigart Avenue in the city, McIlveen admitted a total of seven offences committed on October 12, 2020. The charges include wounding, attempted wounding and possession of a knife with intent to commit wounding.

As he imposed a sentence of nine years in custody followed by a period of three years on extended licence, Judge Kinney spoke of the impact the attacks have had on all six victims.

The judge said: "There is a need to protect women from violence by men such as the defendant."

Detectives from the Police Service of Northern Ireland have welcome the sentence passed down to Dermott McIlveen at Laganside Court today.

McIlveen, aged 40, was sentenced to 12 years – nine years to be served in custody and three on licence – after pleading guilty to six counts of assault and one of possessing an offensive weapon.

Afterwards Detective Inspector Tom Phillips said McIlveen's actions were "terrifying".

“He carried out these shocking attacks, selecting victims at random, while travelling on a bicycle, throughout a number of locations from the city centre of Belfast heading to south Belfast. Four women sustained knife wounds, and two others were punched," he said.

“While, thankfully, none of the victims sustained life-threatening injuries, they were understandably left traumatised.

“I’m keen to acknowledge the bravery of the victims who came forward to assist our investigation. I’m also grateful to a number of witnesses who were quick to get in touch. Such support has been invaluable.

“While these young women, and indeed those who witnessed the attacks, will never forget this terrifying ordeal, I hope that today’s sentencing offers a reassurance that we will work tirelessly to bring offenders before the courts, and to keep people safe.”

McIlveen, who was diagnosed with autism in his childhood, cycled round the streets of Belfast City Centre on a pushbike attacking women over a two-hour period.

The first victim noticed a man on a bike in the Cathedral Quarter, and after walking to McDonald's, she saw the same cyclist.

She noticed he had a metal object in his hand, he bumped into her and short time later she noticed blood running down her leg and a cut to her right buttock.

The second woman was walking home from work and was attacked at a set of traffic lights on Ormeau Avenue.

After McIlveen approached her and stared at her, he jabbed her in her left arm before cycling off.

His third victim was with a friend in Donegall Square West. A bicycle came behind her, and as she stepped over to let him past he stabbed her in the neck.

The fourth woman was in Bedford Street around 8.55pm when a male on a bike hit her on the back of the head.

McIlveen attacked a fifth woman as she walked along Dunluce Avenue, and on this occasion he punched his victim in the throat.

The final attack occurred around 9pm on University Street, when McIlveen brushed up against a woman as he cycled past her and stabbed her in the hip.

Crown barrister David Russell said that following the attacks, police launched an extensive investigation.

CCTV images of the attacker were released in a media campaign, and after recognising McIlveen two relatives contacted police.

McIlveen was arrested and claimed that whilst his memory of the attacks was not clear, he told police he had been on a date with a female on the day of October 12.

He said that after this woman got up and left him sitting on his own in a bar, he felt humiliated - and this led to a decision to go and hurt woman as he felt females were responsible for everything that had gone wrong in his life.

McIlveen admitted he wanted to slash one of the women in the face, and said he attacked another woman as she made him "particularly angry" him after stepping onto the road as he cycled past.

Judge Kinney said: "It is an utterly repugnant idea that this perceived rejection could in some way justify his actions in attacking vulnerable females in public places.

"The defendant engaged in a determined and pre-meditated campaign to cause harm to innocent and vulnerable female victims.

"He deliberately chose to target young women and his violence had only one objective, and that was to hurt women."

The Judge said that after reading victim impact statements, "a common theme is the distress" by those McIlveen "subjected to such random and serious violence."

The sight or sound of a bicycle can create "great unease" for some, while others had to attend hospital during the height of the Covid pandemic.

Defence barrister Patrick Lyttle QC said it was "quite clear" his client will need assistance whilst in prison for a range of psychological issues.

Judge Kinney said that while he accepted there were medical issues, he agreed with a Probation Board assessment that McIlveen posed a serious risk of harm to the public and was a "dangerous offender."

Due to this assessment, Judge Kinney imposed an extended custodial sentence consisting of nine years' custody followed by an extended licence period of three years in a bid to "protect the public."

The sentence means McIlveen may not be automatically released on licence after serving half his prison term.

His release will be determined by the Parole Commissioners, and when this occurs he will be on licence for a further three years.

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