By Paul Higgins
A kidnapper turned evil knife killer was today (Fri) ordered to serve at least 22 years of his life sentence for the murder of the “much loved” Brian Phelan.
At Newry Crown Court Judge Gordon Kerr QC told remorseless killer Daniel Carroll, who still maintains his innocence, given the fact that he stabbed his victim five times including two severe wounds to his neck, “makes it clear that this was a vicious and murderous attack….and is only consistent with an intention to kill.”
Having outlined how Carroll drove after fatally injured and heavily bleeding victim with the “clear inference” that he was trying to run him over, the judge told Carroll the “lack of humanity” he displayed toward his stricken and dying victim, “shows a degree of callousness far beyond the comprehension of normal people.”
Judge Kerr told the 30-year-old the devastation he had wrought on the family and friends of Brian Phelan was best emphasised by a hand written letter he had received from the victim’s young daughter.
Reading from the heart wrenching note, Judge Kerr outlined how the little girl said her daddy “was a kind and loving father.”
“When I felt sad he always made me laugh. I felt safe when I was with my daddy until that bold man took him away from me.
On that horrible day my Mummy told me that daddy had went to heaven. She said that he was with the angels. I was just so confused and started crying,” quoted the judge who added that at the end of the letter Mr Phelan’s daughter says “I hope this bold man can never hurt any child’s father again.”
During the trial last September, the jury heard that having lured Mr Phelan to the rural and remote Carrivekeeney Road under the pretence of buying quad bikes, Carroll launched his murderous assault on his unsuspecting victim, stabbing him in the neck three times and twice to the chest.
The neck wounds severed both the carotid and thyroid arteries and caused Mr Phelan to bleed to death.
Having been stabbed Mr Phelan ran half a mile down the road, leaving a bloody trial behind and with Carroll chasing after him, the jury saw CCTV footage of the victim trying to hide in the garden of a house.
Callously, Carroll rifled through the dying man’s pockets before fleeing the scene in his victim’s car and going to the home of a friend where he disposed of his bloody clothes and washed himself.
Meanwhile the fatally injured Mr Phelan called his partner Amanda Riordan, pleading with her for help and telling her that he was dying.
The jury also heard the recording of a harrowing 999 call he made where he told the operator “I’ve been stabbed, I’m dying, I’m dying,” and when asked who by, using some of his last breaths to tell the operator “my mate, my mate Dan” had been his attacker.
Having cleaned himself up Carroll went his uncles house and revealed to him he had “been in an altercation with a fella and there’s rumours that he’s dead.”
Carroll was arrested a short time later but changed his story at that stage, telling the attesting sergeant “I didn’t do anything – I was in the town.”
The convicted killer, who was on licence for kidnapping and sexual assault of a young woman he abducted from a Dundalk street a few days before Christmas in 2012,
remained steadfastly silent throughout hours of police interviews, answering only “no comment” to all of their questions.
It wasn’t until 15 months later that Carroll initially came up with his concocted story of three men coming over the mountain, attacking Mr Phelan and threatening him before leaving the scene.
Giving evidence on his own behalf, Carroll claimed he had been in contact with two “senior dissident republicans” in the days leading up to the murder, claiming they had introduced him to the three men he claimed committed the grisly stabbing.
He told the jury while he had been “given permission” to talk about the incident, that permission was in the basis of “no names” being mentioned.
The killer could not account for glaring holes in his story such as how three men managed to get there and get away without being seen, why such hardened killers would have allowed the bleeding Mr Phelan to escape or how he was stabbed in the neck when, according to Carroll, he was held in a headlock.
In court today (Fri) defence QC Gary McHugh revealed that Carroll still maintains his account, that he is innocent of the murder and “does not accept the jury’s finding of guilty” so he was somewhat constrained in what he could put forward on Carroll’s behalf.
He submitted that while maintaining he was not responsible for the stabbing, Carroll “has expressed sorrow for what happened that day and in particular his own conduct….most particularly the manner in which the deceased was left on that lawn.”
During his sentencing remarks however, Judge Kerr said he found those sentiments “unconvincing,” adding that he could find no evidence of any remorse or anything in mitigation about either the offence or Carroll himself.
On the contrary there were multiple aggravating features including the fact that Carroll had planned the killing, had lured his victim to the rural area having armed himself with a knife which was then used with such lethal consequences, stealing the victim’s car, “the pursuit of a dying man,” disposing of evidence and also Carroll’s “record for violence” which included the abduction and sexual assault of a random woman.
Having reminded Carroll that the tariff would the absolute minimum he would serve before he could even be considered for release under licence by the parole commissioners, Judge Kerr said the appropriate tariff “in my view,” is 22 years.