Robert Flowerday: Family criticise 16-year minimum jail term

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Michael Gerard Owens, who has been sentenced to life for the murder of retired teacher Robert Flowerday
Image caption,
Michael Gerard Owens initially denied murder

The family of a retired school teacher murdered during a burglary at his house in Crumlin in 2018 have said his killer should spend longer in prison.

Michael Gerard Owens, 35, of Lisburn Road, Glenavy, pleaded guilty to the murder of Robert Flowerday in October and was given a life sentence.

On Friday at Belfast Crown Court, Owens was jailed for a minimum of 16 years.

Speaking outside court, Mr Flowerday's brother Alan said: "Life should mean life."

Owens killed Mr Flowerday at his home on Mill Road in Crumlin during a burglary he carried out to help clear a drugs debt.

The body of 64-year-old Mr Flowerday was found in January 2018.

His family said they would never be the same again.

Image caption,
Robert Flowerday's brother Alan and sister Pat outside Belfast Crown Court

Speaking outside Belfast Crown Court, Alan Flowerday and his sister Pat said: "No sentence could ever make up for the devastation Owens has done to our family."

"The family have been devastated by Robert's murder and our hearts ripped apart," added Alan.

"Today, after almost two years, we hear the judge committing this brutal murderer to a life imprisonment with a tariff of 16-and-a-half years.

"This is not justice for taking our brother's life so cruelty. Life should mean life.

"Robert's house - which was once the happy, warm, welcoming family home - is now a cold, desolate shell that presents constant reminder of the heinous crime, the tragedy, the cruelty and the torture and pain."

Image caption,
The body of Mr Flowerday was found in his home in January 2018.

A hammer, hatchet and poker were used in the murder.

Owens had initially denied the murder, but later pleaded guilty.

Mr Flowerday, who lived alone, was still involved in tutoring after he left his job at Antrim Grammar School.

The alarm was raised on 28 January 2018 after he failed to turn up for a tutoring session, something that was very out of character.

The parents of his pupil went to Mr Flowerday's home to find an "unknown male" inside.

Image source, Pacemaker
Image caption,
Robert Flowerday tutored children after he retired

They knocked the door but no-one answered and the lights were turned out.

Police then gained access to the property and found his body sitting on an armchair, covered in a duvet and one cushion.

Vicious attack

The court was told Owens had owed money because of his cocaine addiction.

The judge said his "attempt to steal money escalated into a violent assault" and Mr Flowerday had suffered a "vicious and prolonged attack in his own home".

A post-mortem examination found Mr Flowerday had 18 lacerations to his scalp, face and neck and 20 bruises on his hands, arms, legs and torso.

His nose and jaw were also broken.

The judge said Mr Flowerday had led a "worthy and blameless" life.

Owens also admitted one charge of burgling Mr Flowerday's home on an unknown date between 27 January and 30 January 2018.

He was sentenced Owens to a minimum of 16 years and six months for the murder, and two years for burglary, to be served concurrently.