Northern Ireland

Harry Holland killer Stephen McKee guilty of gun charge

Harry Holland
Image caption Harry Holland died after being stabbed in the head

A man jailed for murdering west Belfast greengrocer Harry Holland has been convicted of having an imitation gun three months before the killing.

Stephen McKee, 20, was sentenced to 10 months in prison for having the gun when he stepped in front of a motorist on the Falls Road in June 2007.

He was knocked unconscious by an onlooker during the incident.

McKee is already serving a minimum 12 years of a life sentence for murdering Mr Holland at his west Belfast shop.

The 65-year-old was stabbed in the head with a screwdriver as he tried to stop a gang of youths stealing his delivery van.

A judge ruled on Wednesday that McKee was guilty of possessing an imitation firearm when he drunkenly jumped in front of a female motorist driving two children.

Footage of the incident, which appeared on YouTube was played in court, showing the then teenager being knocked unconscious with a single punch and then dragged to the roadside.

Sean Osborne, the man who felled McKee, recalled seeing him earlier brandishing an apparent gun.

He feared McKee would try to hijack the car. In evidence Mr Osborne said he phoned police when he first spotted the suspected weapon, but no officers arrived at the scene.

McKee was not brandishing the imitation pistol at the time he was struck.

Describing Mr Osborne as a "compelling" witness, District Judge Amanda Henderson said she also drew an adverse inference from McKee's decision not to give evidence.

Convicting the defendant of the offence, she added: "It was an extremely frightening for anyone who was present."

Outside the court Mr Holland's widow Pauline claimed the case should have been easily dealt with by police at the time.

"They had eye witnesses, they had a replica gun that was recovered, and they had video footage," she said.

"The world and his wife saw the footage on YouTube. We saw it long before Harry was killed, Harry saw it himself, and yet nothing was done about bringing him to court at that time."

Mrs Holland said the family would now consider going to the police ombudsman.

"It's our view that if the police had acted appropriately when they had a case sitting on their lap, Harry wouldn't be dead," she added.

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