Former policeman appeals Doherty murder sentence

An former police officer, jailed for stabbing his girlfriend to death, has claimed that his former legal representatives and trial judge should have stood down from his case.

William Coulter, 59, alleged in the Court of Appeal that there were issues which impacted on their suitability.

Coulter, formerly of Mill Road in Portstewart, is seeking to overturn his conviction for the murder of 43-year-old Jillian Doherty in January 2003.

The mother-of-two was knifed to death at the home the couple shared, in what the prosecution described as a frenzied attack. She suffered 21 injuries, including nine wounds to her chest and arms.

Coulter was found guilty in 2004 and sentenced to 18 years in prison.

His trial heard Coulter had been drinking with Ms Doherty when a row broke out and he attacked her with a kitchen knife.

The former RUC reservist said he had been drunk at the time and could not remember much about the killing.

He is representing himself in an appeal against the murder verdict, which had been due to be heard last Monday.

As the victim’s family listened in the public gallery, Coulter said: “My case is not based on whether I was guilty or innocent.

“I have never forgiven myself for what I have done. There’s not a word in a book or a chapter in the Bible for how I can apologise to the family.

“My dispute is the way I was treated by the police and by the court.”

Coulter went on to make a series of allegations that statements were either forged or omitted during the trial process.

He told the three judges due to hear his challenge: “Somebody had been very creative in this project of mine. Very creative.”

Coulter also claimed counsel who represented him and the trial judge should have withdrawn from the case.

He referred to “interests”, but declined to go into more detail.

Pressed by Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan, Coulter confirmed he was prepared to waive his legal privilege so that his former lawyers have the chance to respond.

The judge adjourned the planned appeal hearing to allow counsel to make any comments about their participation.

Sir Declan said: “The first thing that occurs to us in a case where a central pillar, in some respects, of the appellant’s case is a criticism of the conduct of counsel who appeared for him in the earlier trial is that it is important to obtain observations of counsel who appeared in the trial - so as to ensure the court has all sides of the argument in relation to that issue.”