31 May 2006

Teenage killer gets 15-year term


Megan McAlorum's body was found in an area of forest

A teenager has been told he must serve at least 15 years in prison for the murder of a Belfast schoolgirl.

Thomas Purcell, 18, from Windsor Road, Belfast, had denied murdering 16-year-old Megan McAlorum, but at the last minute changed his plea to guilty.

Megan was killed in an isolated area of west Belfast on 11 April 2004.

Mr Justice McLaughlin said Purcell had attacked her "with pitiless ferocity and with overwhelming force designed to achieve on object - namely her death".

The Craigavon Crown Court judge told Purcell that his age at the time of the killing and his very last moment guilty plea were mitigating factors in the case.

But he added: "Your record has a catalogue of robberies and a very serious arson, together with the extreme gratuitous violence you inflicted on Megan are severe aggravating factors."

Mother collapses

The judge described Megan as a "bright, vivacious fun-loving young woman, a credit to her parents and family and had everything to life for".

He added: "She had been brought up by her parents to respect others, to contribute to society and she ahd a bright future ahead of her.

"You destroyed all of that by killing her and in doing so destroyed the lives of her parents, brothers and sisters."

As Purcell was led from the cells, Megan's mother, Margaret, collapsed and had to be supported by family and friends as she left the court.

Her family had called for Purcell to be jailed for the rest of his natural life.

The court previously heard that on that Easter Sunday 2004, Purcell abducted the former pupil of St. Genevieve's and drove to an isolated forested area just off the Glenside Road in west Belfast.

He had sex with her and then killed her, pretending to discover her partially clothed body the next day.

Just before his trial was due to start last month Purcell admitted committing the murder.

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