Life for man who committed ‘savage’ murder of retired Co. Antrim schoolteacher

Life for man who committed ‘savage’ murder of retired Co. Antrim schoolteacher

A MAN who committed the 'savage' murder of a retired schoolteacher has been sentenced to life in prison.

Michael Gerard Owens, 35, from Glenavy, Co. Antrim, beat 64-year-old Robert Flowerday with a hammer, a poker and an axe during a prolonged attack.

Owens must serve a minimum of 16 years and six months in jail.

Mr Flowerday's body was found in his home at Mill Road in Crumlin on Sunday, January 28, 2018.

Owens was arrested two days later and subsequently pleaded guilty to murder at Belfast Crown Court on October 3 of this year.

He also admitted one charge of burgling Mr Flowerday's home on an unknown date between January 27 and January 30, 2018.

'Beaten viciously'

Speaking after Friday's sentencing, Detective Inspector Michelle Griffin said: "Robert was a man of faith who dedicated his life to educating children of both primary and secondary school age.

"On the day of his murder on Sunday, January 28, 2018 he attended church in the morning and had tutored a child in the afternoon.

"It was while he was at home in Crumlin getting ready to go to the home of another student for a tutoring session that Michael Owens broke into the one place Robert should have felt safe and carried out the savage killing.

"Robert was beaten viciously with a hammer, poker and an axe over a prolonged period and sadly he died from his injuries.

"Mr Owens not only subjected Robert to a horrendous death, he then tried to start a fire to hide his horrific crime. A crime he carried out solely for the purpose of stealing money to feed his drugs and alcohol habit."

After a member of the public named Owens as a suspect to police, detectives uncovered DNA on his belt and a plastic bag he used as a mask during the attack.

'Hearts ripped out'

Mr Flowerday's brother Alan thanked police and prosecutors, but was critical of the sentencing, saying 'life should mean life'.

"The family has been devastated by Robert's murder and our hearts ripped apart,” he said.

"Today, after almost two years, we hear the judge committing this brutal murderer to life in prison with a tariff of 16 years six months.

"This is not justice for taking our brother's life so cruelly. Life should mean life.

"Here we are, the victims of our brother's murder, suffering the loss, feeling the agony of the torture to which Robert was subjected to and then as taxpayers footing the bill for his legal aid and his accommodation in Maghaberry [Prison]."