Man who murdered Belfast mother-of-three is jailed for minimum of 22 years

Man who murdered Belfast mother-of-three is jailed for minimum of 22 years

A MAN who murdered a mother-of-three before setting fire to her home in an attempt to conceal his crime has been jailed for a minimum of 22 years.

Raymond O'Neill, 44, was given an automatic life sentence at Laganside Court in Belfast on Friday for the 2015 murder of Jennifer Dornan.

He was also given an indeterminate sentence of seven years for arson, to be served concurrently.

Police described the murder as an 'atrocious, senseless and cold-blooded attack'.

Followed home

Ms Dornan had been out with friends on the evening of Saturday, August 1, 2015 when she first met O'Neill.

He was a passenger in the car that gave Ms Dornan and her friends a lift that night.

After the evening out, Ms Dornan went back to a friend's house on her way home, where she again encountered O'Neill.

She left her friend's house alone and walked the short distance to her Hazel View home in the Lagmore area of Belfast in the early hours of Sunday, August 2, 2015.

However, CCTV that has now been released by the PSNI shows that she was followed a short time later by O'Neill.

"O'Neill entered the house having tried to conceal his identity from CCTV," said Detective Superintendent Eamonn Corrigan.

"He stabbed Jennifer in the chest causing her death, and then set fire to the property.

"This was an atrocious, senseless and cold-blooded attack.

"It left a family devastated and three young children — two boys and a girl — without their mother.

"The arson, which was O'Neill's attempt to cover his tracks, added to their heartbreak.

"It left an innocent young woman’s body unrecognisable and a family home destroyed."

O'Neill was arrested in Co. Donegal shortly after the murder but it took three years to extradite him to Northern Ireland.

During the trial he maintained he had no memory of the night in question or of travelling to Donegal.

He attributed this to a stroke, which he claimed was brought on by prison staff in Dublin poisoning him.

He has launched an appeal against his conviction.

No remorse

Following O'Neill's sentencing, DS Corrigan said his thoughts were with Ms Dornan's family.

"This was a challenging and complex investigation," he said.

"O'Neill attempted to conceal his identity, destroyed evidence of his crimes through arson and then left the jurisdiction in the days after the murder.

"It was only through years of hard work and dedication by the investigating detectives with assistance of An Garda Síochána and Public Prosecution Service colleagues, that brought O'Neill to justice.

"Today our thoughts are with Jennifer's family and acknowledge their grit and determination during this difficult and lengthy journey through the Criminal Justice System.

"It is almost seven years on now, and the family's pain is understandably as raw as ever.

“At no stage has O'Neill shown any remorse for carrying out this sickening and incredibly violent act.

"I can only hope that today's sentencing offers some assurance that we will work tirelessly to bring offenders to justice."