THE man who murdered father-of-four Pat McCormick and dumped his body in a lake must serve at least 16 years behind bars before being considered for release.
David Gill, 30, of no fixed abode, was previously convicted of Mr McCormick’s murder and given an automatic life sentence.
Today he had his tariff set at Belfast Crown Court, where the judge stated that he must serve at least 16 years in prison.
William McCormick, known as ‘Pat’, was from Saintfield in Co. Down.
He was last seen alive on the evening of May 30, 2019, and it is believed he was murdered later that night at a flat in Comber after being lured to the property by Gill and his girlfriend Lesley Ann Dodds.
The 55-year-old believed he was meeting Dodds, who he had previously had a brief relationship with, but turned up to find it was only Gill there.
He was reported missing on June 1, but the police investigation quickly turned into a murder enquiry.
Mr McCormick’s body was recovered almost six weeks later, on July 9, from a lake in the Ballygowan area.
Detective Inspector Jennifer Rea explained: “When Pat was reported missing on 1 June 2019, police initially launched a missing person inquiry, which subsequently became a murder inquiry.
“Six weeks later and after an ongoing investigation and extensive searches, divers recovered Pat’s body from a flooded quarry, previously used as a fishing lake, in Ballygowan.
“A postmortem examination revealed the cause of death to be multiple rib fractures due to blunt force trauma.”
She added: “Pat was a father of four children. He was a husband, a son, a brother and an uncle.
“Those weeks of waiting, wondering and hoping were a torturous and prolonged nightmare for a loving family.
“And, of course, their sadness doesn’t end today. It’s over four years on now, and their heartache understandably remains.”
Today five people convicted of offences relating to his murder were sentenced.
Along with Gill’s sentence, his girlfriend Dodds, from Queen Victoria Gardens in Belfast, was sentenced to five and a half years, with 33 months to be served in custody and the remainder on licence, for manslaughter.
For withholding information, Andrew Leslie, 24, from Mourne Crescent in Moneyrea, was sentenced to 15 months, suspended for two years, while William Gill, 43, from Terrace View in Waringstown, was given a one year sentence, suspended for two years, and Jonathan Montgomery, 24, from Castle Espie Road, Comber, was sentenced to 15 months suspended for two years.
Following the sentencing, Det Insp Rea said: “David Gill and Lesley Ann Dodds had initially denied any involvement in Pat’s disappearance and murder.
“The reality is that both played a part in luring Pat to the home of Lesley Ann Dodds.
“However, instead of meeting Ms Dodds as expected, David Gill was lying in wait to carry out this brutal attack.
“Today, thanks to our dedicated team and working in partnership with our colleagues in the Public Prosecution Service, the defendants have been held accountable for their actions.
“Actions that were planned, cowardly and irreversible.”
In a statement made on behalf of the McCormick family, Pat’s daughter Morgan said: “We, as a family, are relieved to have reached this stage; and we remain forever grateful to the Police Service, and to the Courts.
“While no amount of jail time will ever bring our dad back, it’s the start of justice for me and my brothers and sister, my mum and my dad’s family and friends.”
She added: “We’ve been stripped of our father.
“My dad will never get to see any of us grow up, or get married.
“He’ll never get to hold his future grandkids.
“We leave here today with only memories of our dad, who has been taken from us.
“However, those memories are filled with love and happiness, and they’re memories that we’ll hold on to forever.”