Man who stabbed burglar to death given 8½ year sentence

Judge said while defendant faced frightening situation in his home a young man was now dead

A man who stabbed a burglar to death, in a “gross over-reaction” when two men broke into his home, was handed an 8½-year sentence in Northern Ireland on Friday.

Ordering David Matchett to serve half of that in jail and half under supervised licence conditions, Craigavon Crown Court Judge Patrick Lynch QC said while he accepted the defendant had been faced with a "frightening and unjustifiable assault" in his own home, nevertheless "the court cannot shy away from the fact that a young man who should have had his whole life to look forward to is now dead".

Matchett, who turns 31-years-old on Saturday, and is from Upper Greenwell Street in Ards, had initially been charged with the murder of Reece Leeman but that was not proceeded with after the court accepted a guilty plea to manslaughter.

Jailing Matchett, the judge said the case emphasised, “although no emphasis is needed…the dangers of wielding a knife” where events and the resulting “tragic consequences” can go far beyond initial intentions.


Mr Leeman was 21-years-old when on March 15th, 2019, he and his friend Robert McQuaide, also 21, decided to rob Matchett's stash of cannabis they knew he kept in his kitchen and so pulling their clothes up over their faces, McQuaide knocked on the front door of Matchett's then home on Kyle Street in east Belfast.

As soon as Matchett opened the door, McQuaide “pinned him to the wall” by his throat while his accomplice demanded “give us the weed and no one gets hurt”. When McQuaide went to the kitchen to grab the drugs, the defendant armed himself with a large kitchen knife.

Mr Leeman was stabbed a total of six times but according to a pathologist, the cause of his “rapid death” was a 24cm wound which would have required “no more than moderate force” to penetrate his chest wall and his heart.

Jailing the defendant, Judge Lynch outlined that the plea to the lesser offence of manslaughter had been accepted by the prosecution on the basis that because of the traumatic situation he was faced with, coupled with Matchett’s “intellectual limitations” and diagnosed learning difficulties, “the defendant did not form the necessary intent for murder”.

The judge said he was satisfied that neither McQuaide nor Mr Leeman were armed but that Matchett had grabbed the knife from the block in the kitchen and having stabbed his victim, he dumped the blood-stained weapon in a wheelie bin of a neighbouring property.

The court heard it was Matchett himself who had rang 999. He told police: “I defended where I lived and I felt like in that moment that...they were going to kill me…I was shouldn’t have happened the way it happened but it did.”

Last October, McQuaide was handed a combination order of probation and community service after he entered a guilty plea to burglary of Matchett’s home.