Thursday 26 April 2018

Anger as woman who bound, gagged and stabbed pensioner jailed for just three years

Local politician says there is concern at the short sentence

Margaret Henderson-McCarroll
Margaret Henderson-McCarroll

Cate McCurry and John Cassidy

The three years in prison handed down to a mother-of-two for what a senior judge described as the "horrific'' killing of a Co Antrim pensioner was last night branded "too lenient".

Margaret Henderson-McCarroll (31), formerly of Verner Street, Belfast, had previously pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of 67-year-old retired plumber Eddie Girvan.

He was gagged, bound and stabbed at his Greenisland home on January 18, 2016.

Dressed in denim jeans, black jacket and white top and with her red hair now dyed blonde and cut into a mohawk-style, Henderson-McCarroll spoke briefly to family and friends in the public gallery after she was brought into court in handcuffs.

Eddie Girvan
Eddie Girvan

Henderson-McCarroll wiped away tears as the judge entered the court room.

Passing sentence yesterday at Belfast Crown Court, Mr Justice Treacy said the defendant would serve three years behind bars and a further three on licence .

Judges are bound by sentencing guidelines and must take into account mitigating circumstances such as early guilty pleas, co-operation with police and remorse, as well as aggravating factors such as intent and excessive violence.

Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson, who was well-known to Mr Girvan, said he was "disappointed" at the sentencing.

"It's difficult to accept such a short sentence as I feel it is too lenient," he said.

"I'm concerned that someone who did what that they did in such a heinous way has been handed a short sentence.

Margaret Henderson-McCarroll
Margaret Henderson-McCarroll

"People in the area have also been shocked by the sentencing.

"There is public concern that this is a short sentence."

His long-term friend and neighbour John Milliken said: "I would have hoped for something stiffer. I knew Eddie for a long time.

"He shouldn't have been killed."

Mr Milliken told the Belfast Telegraph that his friend was "brilliant with his hands", "interested in loads of things" and "had a great mind".

"I think he would have loved to have been a mechanic as he loved motorbikes and rode grass track in his younger days," said Mr Milliken.

"There was nothing mechanical that he couldn't work with or fix."

Justice Treacy said he agreed with two consultant forensic psychologists that Henderson-McCarroll did not meet the dangerous provisions and that she did not pose a "significant risk of serious harm to the public in the future''.

The judge told the court: "This was an horrific crime and the deceased must have suffered terribly.''

The prosecution accepted her guilty plea to the manslaughter of the Mr Girvan on the grounds of "diminished responsibility''.

Her defence had argued that at the time of the killing, Henderson-McCarroll was high on a cocktail of heroin and crystal meth.

A defence QC had told a plea and sentence hearing in June this year that at the time of the manslaughter her life had descended into a "heroin hell'' following the cot death of her infant daughter.

The court heard that Henderson-McCarroll had known Mr Girvan for a number of years and she received "money for sex with him''.

In the hours after the attack Henderson-McCarroll was driving Mr Girvan's car when she was involved in a road collision in Belfast.

Police traced his address and went to speak to him several times, however there was no answer.

After becoming concerned for his safety, police broke into his home where they found his dead body bound, gagged and seated in a room on the ground floor.

Mr Justice Treacy said that Mr Girvan had sustained two stab wounds to his body - one wound was to the upper right chest area measuring 10cms in depth which had "punctured his lung causing high bleeding into the lung'' and which alone "could have resulted in death''.

"The deceased had a large wad of kitchen roll stuffed into his mouth and he had been gagged with a tie.

"This too, of itself, could have resulted in death.''

She told police she had been at his Greenisland home that weekend where she took drink and drugs.

The court heard that on the morning of Mr Girvan's death, he and Henderson-McCarroll had an argument about money she claimed he owed her for sex.

She told police he pushed her against a mantelpiece and the deceased pulled out a stick sword. She further alleged that she grabbed the stick sword and there was a struggle and then she grabbed a knife.

The judge continued: "You say you lifted it and poked him, to use your words, in the chest, and he fell on the chair.

"You said that you panicked, that Mr Girvan was shouting at you, and so you put a tie on his mouth to quieten him.

"You then left his house, took his car, drove to Belfast, were involved in a hit-and-run and had taken more heroin before the journey to calm your nerves.''

Mr Justice Treacy said that Henderson-McCarroll had 100 previous criminal convictions which included offences of robbery, theft and assault.

He added that she had a "clear propensity" to use threats and violence and that in a number of these attacks, she had bitten, punched and headbutted some of her victims who included children, elderly men, young women and adult men.

A consultant forensic psychiatrist, who had examined the defendant, said in a report to the court that she had an addiction history to opiates and stimulants which had led to a "chaotic life''.

"It is evident her abuse of illicit drugs intensified following the death of her infant daughter which led to a subsequent significant deterioration in her mental health and social functioning,'' the report stated.

"She also exhibits traits of an emotionally unstable personality disorder due to the background of violence and sexual abuse at the hands of a number of male partners.''

Mr Justice Treacy also handed down concurrent prison sentences and banned her from driving for one year for a series of offences.

Henderson-McCarroll, who remained emotionless as she was handed down the sentence, made heart gestures to her family and partner as she was being led away to serve her sentence.

It's understood Mr Girvan had been estranged from his former wife Heather and two daughters Martina and Amanda.

None of Mr Girvan's family members were present at court yesterday.

Belfast Telegraph

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