Child found beside murdered mother, court hears

Caoimhe Morgan
Caoimhe Morgan's body was found in her north Belfast home in December 2021 [PSNI]

A court has heard how a child was found beside the body of his murdered mother.

The details emerged as a man was told he must spend at least 17 years in prison for the murder of his partner, Caoimhe Morgan.

Taylor George McIlvenna murdered the 30 year old at her home at Harcourt Drive in the Oldpark area of north Belfast in December 2021.

Police said McIlvenna "carried out a vicious and frenzied attack" on Ms Morgan and described it as a "senseless, violent and horrific" assault.

At the sentencing hearing at Belfast Crown Court on Wednesday, Mr Justice McFarland outlined how the victim's body was discovered.

He said Ms Morgan's mother went to the house to check on her daughter.

'Mum, Mum, Mum'

While there, the victim's eldest old son cautioned his grandmother not to go into an upstairs bedroom.

He told her his mother was there "in a bad way - all beat and covered in blood".

When the grandmother entered the room, she found her daughter lying on the floor.

One of the victim's youngest sons was lying beside his mother touching her and repeating: "Mum, Mum, mum."

The judge noted that by leaving the victim in the house and not calling for assistance, the killer exposed her children to "their mother's dead body and the blood-splattered scene in the home".

Mr Justice McFarland said the killer had "a significant criminal record".

McIlvenna, from Highvale Gardens in Belfast, pleaded guilty to murder earlier this year before his trial was due to begin

The 33-year-old, who is originally from Greyabbey Road in Ballywalter, County Down, was given an automatic life sentence for the killing.

On Wednesday, he was told he must spend at least 17 years in prison before being considered for parole.

Taylor George McIlvenna
McIlvenna admitted killing Ms Morgan earlier this year [Pacemaker]

On Wednesday, he was told he must spend at least 17 years in prison before being considered for parole.

Mr Justice McFarland said the attack on his partner was "prolonged" and lasted for some time upstairs and downstairs in her home.

Ms Morgan's injuries included two black eyes, a broken nose, and a swollen brain.

The judge said the brain injury was consistent with "an impact to the head against an unyielding surface".

McIlvenna claimed he hit Ms Morgan after confronting her about other alleged relationships.

At the time of the killing, the court heard that the perpetrator and the victim both had issues with drugs and alcohol misuse.

Mr Justice McFarland referred to victim impact statements provided to the court by Ms Morgan's family.

He said they set out "the personal devastation felt by the sudden death of a much-loved daughter, sister, sister-in-law and aunt".

Mental health issues

The judge also outlined details of the killer's history of crime and violence.

At the time of the murder, McIllvenna was on bail in connection with two other offences.

He had a total of 47 previous convictions.

Ten of them were for assault, including assaulting police officers on a number of occasions.

The judge also detailed mental health issues suffered by McIllvenna.

They included two inpatient admissions to a psychiatric hospital in 2020, the year before he murdered his partner.

Both admissions resulted from psychotic incidents, and the second was a compulsory detention.

During that detention he required physical and chemical restraint.

After Wednesday's sentencing, McIllvenna was led from the dock into custody, as relatives of Ms Morgan watched from the public gallery.

Killer 'tried to cover his tracks'

Speaking after the sentencing, Acting Det Supt Darren McCartney said the case was "distressing beyond words".

He said that McIllvenna initially claimed he only struck Ms Morgan once during a row.

"The reality of it is he carried out a vicious and frenzied attack on his ex-partner, striking her repeatedly and ultimately causing her death."

He added that following the murder McIllvenna used Ms Morgan's mobile phone "to send a series of messages to her family, pretending to be Caoimhe in an attempt to cover his tracks".

The officer said it was heartbreaking that one of Ms Morgan's children was "found at the scene comforting Caoimhe's lifeless body".

He added that Ms Morgan's mother and sister were "still completely traumatised" by the experience of finding her dead.

"Their sorrow and heartache, and that of Caoimhe's wider family and friends, won't end with today's sentencing.

"Nothing can take away this pain, I can only extend my sincere sympathy to the children and wider family," he said.

Mr McCartney also thanked the local community for providing vital information, which helped convict the murderer.

The post-mortem report indicated that McIlvenna subjected the victim "to a violent and horrific attack" that involved "at least 10 blows to her head," according to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS).

Senior public prosecutor Jenny Burns said Ms Morgan's family and friends "have shown great dignity throughout these proceedings and I hope the conclusion of this case will help them to move forward as they continue to try to cope with their loss".