22 June 2023

Man jailed after murdering love rival and dumping body in wheelie bin in lake

22 June 2023

A man who battered a love rival and left him to die before disposing of his body in a wheelie bin dumped in a lake has been told he must serve at least 16 years in prison.

David Gill, 30, of no fixed abode, was sentenced at Belfast Crown Court for the murder of father-of-four Pat McCormick, 55, in Co Down in 2019.

Mr McCormick was lured to a flat in Comber on the evening of May 30 2019, where he believed he was going to meet Gill’s fiancee Lesley Ann Dodds, who he had had a brief relationship with.

Dodds, 25, from Queen Victoria Gardens in Belfast, was sentenced to five-and-a-half years after admitting manslaughter, with half to be served in custody.

Setting out the background to the case, Judge Mr Justice Scoffield told the court that Mr McCormick had begun a relationship with Dodds, who he had met through work.

He said Mr McCormick had been lured to Dodds’ flat by text messages sent from her Facebook Messenger account, which encouraged him to meet her there.

The judge added: “However, rather than meeting Ms Dodds, when Mr McCormick arrived he encountered David Gill.”

Mr Justice Scoffield said there had been a range of communication between Dodds and Mr McCormick on the day.

The judge said that Mr McCormick had replied to one message “somewhat prophetically, that he thought she was trying to set him up to get a kicking”.

He continued: “Dodds encouraged the victim to come to her flat, reassuring him that she had left David Gill in favour of him and that he was not being set up.”

The judge told the court that as Gill had taken Dodds’ mobile phone, there was some doubt as to who had sent some of the messages.

However, he said Dodds would have been aware of the messages as she had access to the account through a computer.

The judge said: “A curious and depressing feature of this case is that before going to Dodds’ flat, Mr McCormick had been in contact with the police outlining his fear that David Gill might be lying in wait for him outside his girlfriend’s flat in order to give him a beating.”

The judge said no weapon had been used in the assault in the flat but that Mr McCormick had suffered a number of rib fractures.

The victim was still alive when Gill left the flat but had died when he returned the following day.

The judge told the court that Gill had then stolen a black wheelie bin and put Mr McCormick’s body in it.

The body was eventually recovered six weeks later in a fishing lake in Ballygowan, Co Down, by police divers.

The judge said: “It had been placed upside down in a wheelie bin and secured with straps and weighted down with concrete blocks so it had sunk to the bottom of the lake.”

A post-mortem examination showed the victim had suffered 24 rib fractures caused by direct blunt force.

Mr McCormick was subjected to a brutal and sustained assault which was intended to and did cause him really serious harm

The judge referred to victim impact statements provided to the court by Mr McCormick’s family.

He said: “These statements paint a picture of Mr McCormick as a man who was devoted to his family – friendly, thoughtful, gentle and caring.”

“The statements provided by Mr McCormick’s children, the youngest of whom were aged 14 and 12 at the time of his murder, are heartbreaking.”

The judge continued: “Mr McCormick was subjected to a brutal and sustained assault which was intended to and did cause him really serious harm to such an extent that he was left fighting for his life.”

The judge said he had already imposed an automatic life sentence on Gill but told him he must serve 16 years in prison before he could be considered for parole.

Turning to Dodds, the judge said: “I have no doubt whatsoever that Dodds played her part in luring Mr McCormick to her flat knowing that he would come to harm there.”

Three other men who had admitted withholding information in relation to Mr McCormick’s killing were also sentenced.

William Gill, 43, from Terrace View in Waringstown, Andrew Leslie, 24, from Mourne Crescent in Moneyrea, and Jonathon Richard Leslie Montgomery, 24, from Castle Espie Road in Comber, were all given suspended sentences.

Speaking after sentencing, PSNI Detective Inspector Jennifer Rea said the family of Pat McCormick had been put through a “torturous and prolonged nightmare”.

She added: “Of course, their sadness doesn’t end today. It’s over four years on now and their heartache understandably remains.”

Ms Rea continued: “David Gill and Lesley Ann Dodds had initially denied any involvement in Pat’s disappearance and murder.

“The reality is that both played a part in luring Pat to the home of Lesley Ann Dodds.

“However, instead of meeting Ms Dodds as expected, David Gill was lying in wait to carry out this brutal attack.

“Today, thanks to our dedicated team and working in partnership with our colleagues in the Public Prosecution Service, the defendants have been held accountable for their actions. Actions that were planned, cowardly and irreversible.

“My thoughts are first and foremost with Pat’s family and loved ones.”

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