GUILTY - of Paddy Fleming murder

THE cowardly scar-faced knife-killer of Coleraine man Paddy Fleming could not face his jury as they today convicted him of the unprovoked murder, in his absence.

Instead of appearing in the dock before the jury, who took two days in reaching their 10 - 1 majority verdict, 26-year-old Ballymen man Dessie Heaney "elected" to stay in the cells at Antrim Crown Court on Wednesday.

Trial judge Mr Justice McLaughlin, in thanking the jury of six men and five women, told them that he was "satisfied that the verdict is completely justified on the evidence that you have heard".

Heaney, from Dunclug Park, Ballymena, who faces a mandatory life sentence, will learn next month the minimum term he must serve before he is considered safe for release.

A father of two, Heaney had denied murdering Mr Fleming, stabbed five times as he watched a fight at a party in Hazelbank Road in the Height's area of Coleraine in the early hours of May 14, 2006.

By their verdict the jury rejected claims by Heaney, hiding out in Coleraine while on the run from police in Ballymena at the time of the stabbing, that he was the victim of a conspiracy because he was the only stranger at the party.

Heaney is no stranger to violence and has at least one previous conviction where he threatened to "slice -up" a man with a 3foot Samaurai sword.

To be sentenced with him later, will be 29-year-old Kevin Brendan Gilmore of Alderbrook Gardens, Coleraine, who admitted withholding information about the murder of Mr Fleming, a 40-year-old father of two.

Gilmore was one of the main prosecution witnesses against Heaney, whom he claimed confessed to him: "I stabbed a boy", as they escaped the murder scene in a stolen car.

At the time of his death Mr Fleming was already under investigation by the crime-busting Assets Recovery Agency, who'd frozen many of his assets.

For the full story on the trial make sure you read the next edition of the Coleraine Times, out Tuesday, March 18.

A full account of the murder and all the court hearings can be found, on line, on Coleraine's only interactive digital news service -