A dangerous killer who battered one neighbour to death with a hammer and left another permanently disabled in what was described as an attack carried out with “the utmost viciousness and savagery” was today told he will serve at least 16 years of his life sentence before he is even considered for release.
Imposing the minimum tariff on 38-year-old hulking and shaven headed Paul Greatbanks at Antrim Crown Court, sitting in Belfast, Mr Justice Horner told the Englishman the photographs he had seen of the incident on February 20 2011 “demonstrate acts of unspeakable brutality” on his part.
He also told Greatbanks, who sat with his head bowed throughout the hearing, that both his victims, the man he killed Patrick Harkin and the man he left for dead, 41-year-old Paul Mythen “were entirely innocent men who did nothing to deserve that happened to them”.
“The defendant bears full responsibility for these violent and vicious attacks resulting in the deceased’s death and Paul Mythen’s profound physical and mental incapacity,” declared the judge adding: “Effectively two innocent, decent men have had their lives, in one case ended and in the other case destroyed, by the defendant.”
As well as the 16 year minimum tariff for the murder, for which Kent born Greatbanks will receive no remission whatsoever, Mr Justice Horner imposed a 15-year jail term, to be served concurrently, with an extra five years on licence for the attempted murder of Mr Mythen.
During an earlier court proceeding the judge had heard how a drunken Greatbanks, who was prone to “explosive” fits of temper when drunk, had downed five double whiskies as well as beer before being forcibly ejected from Wetherspoons bar.
Back at his own flat in Bayview Terrace Greatbanks armed himself with a claw hammer and went first to Mr Harkin’s flat, also in the Bayview Terrace complex in Derry and beat him to death with it, landing multiple blows, including whilst he lay unconscious on the floor and causing numerous fractures to his facial bones.
Greatbanks, who had been a homeless street drinker in Dublin before moving to Derry, then went to Mr Mythen’s flat, also in Bayview Terrace and attacked him with the hammer, causing massive injuries which have left him wheelchair bound and needing 24 hour support and then, covered in his victims’ blood, walked to nearby Strand Road PSNI station here he told the desk officer he had just killed two men.
Last month Greatbanks pleaded guilty to Mr Harkin’s murder and to attempting to murder Mr Mythen.
Mr Justice Horner repeated the fact the photographs taken at the respective scenes “display a truly horrifying picture of what took place and added that one possible consolation for Mr Harkin’s family was that he “may have been rendered unconscious early in the attack”.
Commenting that it was a “miracle” that Mr Mythen even survived the attack, the judge told the court “it is not surprising” Greatbanks believed he had killed both men given the level of wide-ranging injuries he had inflicted.
Turning to aggravating and mitigating factors, Mr Justice Horner said he considered the fact that the men were attacked in their respective homes where they ought to have been “safe and secure” aggravated the case, as did Greatbanks pre-arming himself with the hammer before launching the beatings.
He told the killer it was also aggravating that mr Harkin had been beaten while he “was in a prone position” and that he had previous criminal convictions for offences of violence.
In mitigation, added the judge, Greatbanks had pleaded guilty, shown remorse and had publicly apologised.
However given those matters Mr Justice Horner said he considered Greatbanks to be a dangerous offender in that he was at high risk of reoffending and that any future offending was likely to cause serious harm to the public.
“The defendant remains addicted to alcohol,” said the judge, “As I have said he has admitted to explosive rages when he drinks to excess. The failure of the defendant to give up alcohol to date provides no confidence for the future that he will be able to remain sober and while that is the position, further violent offences may be expected.”
In setting Greatbanks minimum tariff at 16 years, Mr Justice Horner made it explicitly clear to him that even when he has served that sentence it will be up to the Parole Commissioners to determine whether he is safe to be released and on what licence conditions.
“The offence committed by the defendant was truly dreadful and has had disastrous repercussions for Mr Mythen,” declared the judge.