A Craigavon man who subjected another man to a “gratuitous and extensive” attack before leaving him to die was told yesterday (Tuesday) that he will spend the next 16 years behind bars before he is considered eligible for release.
Telling Mark Ward there were “no mitigating factors” in his favour, Mr Justice Treacy told the killer that not only did he “abandon” the dying Marcell Seeley after attacking him, but that he also failed to call an ambulance or get assistance.
There was a notable police presence in the public gallery, with officers standing between the families of both Mr Seeley and Ward.
Mr Seeley, also known as Junior, was kicked and stamped to death some time on the morning of October 11, 2015. His remains were discovered in the living room of his Dingwell Park flat, on the Tagnaven estate in Lurgan, two days later by his sister.
The father of four died of blunt force trauma to the head, and also sustained multiple injuries in the attack, which occurred when he was “vulnerable” due to his intoxicated state.
The head injuries caused heavy bleeding, particularly from his ear, with other injuries inflicted to his neck and voicebox. The 34-year old also sustained two fractured ribs as well as bruises and abrasions to his upper body, and all four limbs.
A pathologist concluded he would have survived for several hours after the head injuries were inflicted.
Ward, from Drumellan Gardens in the Moyraverty area of Craigavon, was handed a life sentence in June after he was convicted by a jury of murdering Mr Seeley (34) - a man he said he knew for around a decade.
Despite the conviction, Ward continues to deny the charge.
Delivering his sentence at yesterday’s tariff hearing at Belfast Crown Court, trial judge Mr Justice Treacy described the attack on Mr Seeley as one in which there was “gratuitous and extensive violence used.”
The Judge outlined the many injuries inflicted on Mr Seeley, including a wound to the back of his shoulder which Mr Justice Treacy said was caused using a “severe degree of force” and was most likely inflicted as the injured man was lying face down on the floor.
Telling Ward he will serve a minimum of 16 years in prison before he is considered to be eligible for release by the Parole Commissioners, the Judge also told the Lurgan man there would be “no remission” on the sentence.
Mr Justice Treacy also warned Ward that when he is released on licence, “you can be recalled to prison if you do not comply with the terms of that licence.”
The Judge said that as Ward had chosen not to speak to police after his arrest, and had declined to give evidence during the trial, this left the court to speculate about what occurred in the flat two years ago.
He did, however, point out that “extensive and multiple injuries” were inflicted with a shod foot, that Mr Seeley was vulnerable and that Ward “abandoned” a “gravely injured” man he had known for years. Mr Justice Treacy also noted Ward’s lack of obtaining assistance after the attack.
During the trial, the jury was told that several footprints were left behind in either blood or spilt Buckfast The distinctive pattern of these footprints were located on an envelope beside Mr Seeley’s body, on a belt, on several areas on the floor, and there was also a footprint on the victim’s shirt.
A footwear expert concluded that the footprint was caused by a size nine Base London trainer, and the jury heard Ward wears size nine shoes, that he was wearing a pair of size nine Base London trainer when he attended a police station for an unrelated matter in the days before the murder - and that these shoes have never been recovered.
After passing sentence, the Judge told prison staff “the defendant can be taken down.” At this point, Ward turned to his family in the public gallery, gave the thumbs up and said “100%, I will give you a buzz when I get back up.”
As Ward’s family were leaving court, a sibling told a reporter “Our brother is an innocent man.”