Hammer killer Paul Greatbanks fails in assault appeal

A man who beat his neighbour to death with a hammer has failed to overturn his conviction for a separate attack in a pub months earlier.

Paul Greatbanks was given a minimum 16-year jail term for killing Paddy Harkin in Londonderry in February 2011.

Greatbanks, 48, went to the Court of Appeal to challenge a conviction for assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

He had been given 18 months for hitting another man on the head with a stool in December 2010.

A successful appeal would not have impacted on his life sentence for Mr Harkin's murder.

However, it could have benefited him, if and when, he does seek parole.

Challenge

Greatbanks was found guilty of attacking a taxi driver who was having a drink with friends at a bar in the city.

He allegedly lifted a stool and brought it down on his head in a rage at the group trying to sit at his table.

Greatbanks claimed to have acted in self-defence after being verbally assaulted and hearing references to Bloody Sunday.

He said he felt threatened and, fearing an attack, reacted instinctively by throwing the barstool.

Greatbanks' lawyers challenged the conviction by arguing that the trial judge misdirected the jury on two points.

They claimed it was wrong to let jurors consider the offence of assault occasioning actual bodily harm when the prosecution had argued the case as causing grievous bodily harm with intent.

Secondly, they took issue with the charge given on unanimous and majority verdicts.

But a three-judge panel sitting in the Court of Appeal rejected both arguments.

Lord Justice Coghlin said: "We have not been persuaded by the grounds of appeal advanced, either separately or in combination, that this conviction is in any respect unsafe and, accordingly, the appeal must be dismissed."

Greatbanks, who was in court, was led away in handcuffs to be returned to prison.

Less than two months after the pub attack he battered Mr Harkin to death and left a second man permanently disabled.

Greatbanks had returned to his Bayview Terrace flat and armed himself with a claw hammer after being thrown out from another pub in the city.

He went first to Mr Harkin's apartment in the same complex in Londonderry and beat him to death with the weapon, continuing to inflict blows as the 49-year-old father of one lay unconscious on the floor.

Greatbanks then went to Letterkenny man Paul Mythen's flat in the block and attacked him with the hammer, causing massive injuries.

He then walked to a nearby police station and told the desk officer he had just killed two men.

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