Killer ordered to serve minimum of 18 years for ‘clinical’ murder

David Lyness - who court heard has fascination with knives - cut Anita Downey’s throat

David Lyness - who Belfast Crown Court heard has a fascination with knives - killed Anita Downey in the early hours of January 20th, 2017. Photograph: PSNI

David Lyness - who Belfast Crown Court heard has a fascination with knives - killed Anita Downey in the early hours of January 20th, 2017. Photograph: PSNI

 

A Co Armagh man who cut his partner’s throat in a “clear, clinical, cynical act of murder” has been told he will serve a minimum of 18 years in prison before being considered for release.

David Lyness - who Belfast Crown Court heard has a fascination with knives - killed Anita Downey in the early hours of January 20th, 2017.

The 51-year old mother of three bled to death on the floor of Lyness’s home at Toberhewry Hall, Lurgan. She has suffered a wound to the left side of her neck which extended back to her spine and severed her jugular vein.

Lyness (52) showed no emotion as Judge Geoffrey Miller QC spoke of the impact the “chilling” murder has had on Mrs Downey’s family.

The court heard Ms Downey described as the “lynchpin” of her family, with her father Thomas Doran speaking of “a huge void that will never been filled” by the death of his “wonderful” daughter.

Lyness, who has an extensive criminal record for offences including wounding and possessing knives, denied murder and instead claimed that during an argument, Ms Downey came at him with a knife she has taken from his kitchen.

He told police that during a “frantic struggle” when he tried to disarm her, they both ended up on the floor where he noticed blood coming from her.

It was also Lyness’s case that when he realised Ms Downey was dead, he tried to take his own life by cutting his own throat, then lay beside her cuddling her and waiting for the emergency services to arrive.

‘Sawing’

His version of events was rejected by the jury, who relied on other evidence they heard in the three-week trial — including an eye-witness account from Lyness’s son, who was 21 at the time.

After seeing the couple arguing in the living room, Shane Lyness witnessed his father straddling Ms Downey and “sawing” at her neck with a kitchen knife.

He also told the jury that Ms Downey turned to him and asked for help, and he could not understand why she was so calm, and not crying out, while she was being stabbed.

Assistant state pathologist for Northern Ireland Dr Christopher Johnson said the only way Ms Downey’s wound could have been caused was by “somebody taking a knife and cutting her throat with it.”

Judge Miller said Lyness had an apparent fascination with knives, noting he used to carry a meat cleaver in his jacket pocket and sleep with a machete in his bed.

After less than two hours of deliberations at the end of the trial in June, the jury returned a unanimous verdict of guilty.

Lyness was then handed a life sentence.

Addressing Lyness on Friday, Judge Miller told him there were no mitigating features in the case and he will serve a minimum of 18 years before he is considered eligible for parole.