First murder conviction in Northern Ireland aggravated by domestic abuse

The family of a mother-of-four killed by her former partner have described the sentencing of her murderer as “bittersweet”. William Finlay, 68, of Old Forde Gardens in Whitehead, pleaded guilty last year to murdering 64-year-old Alyson Nelson at her home in Victoria Avenue in the Co Antrim town. The victim was described at Belfast Crown Court as a “beloved mother and grandmother” who, her family said, was “constantly bubbling with life”.

The court heard that Finlay had acted out of jealousy after Mrs Nelson had begun a relationship with another man. Her family embraced each other outside court after Finlay was sentenced to a minimum of 20 years. In a statement, they described a “bittersweet” day, saying that while they are relieved to see the end of legal proceedings, the pain of their loss is immeasurable. “Today is bittersweet. It may well be the conclusion of legal proceedings, and for that we are relieved,” they said. “But for us as a family, the pain and sorrow caused by the loss of our mum, sister, nanny and friend is immeasurable – and it will continue to be so in the weeks, months and even the years ahead. “She will be sorely missed by all who knew her.” At the tariff hearing in Belfast Crown Court on Thursday, Mr Justice O’Hara said Mrs Nelson was a former nurse and that “public service ran in her family”. He told the court that Mrs Nelson had met Finlay online in December 2018 and he later moved in with her. After a year they separated and he moved to another flat in Whitehead, which she had found for him. The judge said that weeks before her death, Mrs Nelson had started a relationship with another man. She had met her new partner for a drink in a Whitehead bar on the night of her murder, but Finlay had turned up and stared at the couple. Mr Justice O’Hara said a witness had told police that Finlay had told him he was jealous of Mrs Nelson’s new relationship. Mrs Nelson later left the bar to go home to let her dogs out. The judge said: “CCTV at the front door of Mrs Nelson’s home captured what happened next. “The defendant arrived wearing latex gloves and entered the house. “He left barely a minute later still wearing the gloves but openly carrying a long knife which he had just used to murder Mrs Nelson by stabbing her repeatedly in a vicious, unrelenting attack.” Post-mortem reports showed she had suffered stab wounds to her cheek, chin, neck and jaw, to the front and back of her chest and both arms. The fatal wound went through her left chest and cut blood vessels in her neck. The judge said her hand wounds were “classic defensive injuries” as she tried to defend herself from attack and that she died very quickly. Police found Finlay at his home within the hour and discovered his blood-stained clothes, the latex gloves and the knife which had been cleaned. He denied guilt during police interviews and did not plead guilty until November 2023. Mr Justice O’Hara said Mrs Nelson’s daughters had provided victim impact statements in which they described their mother as kind and caring and “constantly bubbling with life”. He added: “Her family’s loss is immeasurable, they have lost a beloved mother and grandmother. “She is no longer around to spoil her grandchildren … birthdays and Christmases will never be the same for them.” The judge said Finlay had been in the navy for 25 years and had had trouble readjusting to civilian life. He said aggravating factors in the case included premeditation, lack of remorse and the domestic abuse element.

The conviction is the first in Northern Ireland to be aggravated by domestic abuse. The judge, who had previously imposed a life sentence on Finlay, told him he would serve a minimum of 20 years before he could be considered for release.

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