Northern Ireland

Life for Bangor house party knife killer Mark Wallace

Katie Hughes
Image caption Katie Hughes, 21, was stabbed to death at a party in Bangor

A man who stabbed his girlfriend to death in front of guests at a house party has pleaded guilty to her murder.

Mark Wallace, 26, from Elmwood Drive in Bangor told friends he was thinking of stabbing Katie Hughes weeks in advance of her death in April 2009.

Next week, a judge will tell Wallace, a former cocaine addict, how much of a life sentence he will have to serve before he is eligible for parole.

It is expected that a minimum tariff of 16 years will be set.

Jealous

A prosecution lawyer told Downpatrick Crown Court, sitting in Belfast, that Wallace, who was once forced to leave Northern Ireland by paramilitaries because of drugs debts, became jealous after hearing Ms Hughes talking to a friend at the party about a previous relationship.

He went into the kitchen of the house in Park Avenue in Bangor and returned to a sofa to sit beside Ms Hughes, who has a four year old child, before attacking her with a knife he had got from a drawer.

At first, stunned guests thought the couple were "messing around" said the lawyer but when one of them confronted Wallace he swung the knife at him too.

The lawyer said Wallace fled from the party and when he saw police at his mother's home, he ended up in a house in Newtownards where he told a friend that Ms Hughes had been "winding him up and making a fool of him in front of his mates".

He said he had been thinking of killing her for a few weeks and also talked about stabbing his mother "because she had touted on him".

Police arrested Wallace in Newtownards and he claimed he had got the kitchen knife to scare his girlfriend but he said he snapped and lashed out at her after she "said something".

'Ashamed'

A defence lawyer said that Wallace had had a traumatic childhood after experiencing domestic violence.

He started drinking in his early teens, he said, and he was misusing cocaine, ecstasy, amphetamines and prescription drugs by the age of 16.

After his return to Northern Ireland in 2008, Wallace substituted his addiction to drugs with an addiction to alcohol, said the lawyer.

And he was three times the drink drive limit on the night of the murder.

The lawyer said Wallace was ashamed of what he had done and had thought about taking his own life in prison.

He was remanded in custody and members of Katie Hughes' family, including her widowed mother Helen, watched as he was led away by prison officers.

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