July 1999

‘Callous paedophile’ jailed for murder 

A Budding MUSIC student who raped and murdered an 11-year-old boy had previously been jailed for indecently assaulting four children. Because of the date of his conviction, he missed being out on the sex offenders’ register by just one day.

Dominic McKilligan , 19, was jailed for life after Newcastle Crown Court was told how he killed schoolboy Wesley Neailey . The jury took less than three hours to reach its decision. The court had heard that McKilligan, of Bournemouth, Dorset, had befriended the boy and lured him back to a garage where he made sexual advances to him and then hit him with a wrench. He then raped the boy before strangling him, in June last year.

The judge, Mr Justice Bennett, told McKilligan: “No words of mine can adequately express the horror and revulsion of your crimes. You have nerves of steel. You are a dangerous manipulative callous paedophile and killer.”

He said he believed the schoolboy had tried to defend himself, as he had been taught by his mother. “His terror at what you were doing to him must have been quite awful for him as you struck him with a ratchet, raped him and closed your hand around his neck and strangled him,” he said.

“By your dreadful action you have deprived a loving and devoted family of a son, a brother and a grandson. The family’s grief must be heart-rending. I am satisfied that you are a highly dangerous person particularly to young boys.”

After the jury reached its verdict, the court heard that in 1994 McKilligan had been convicted at Christchurch Youth Court in Bournemouth and sentenced to a three-year supervision order.

Christopher Knox, for the prosecution, said that as part of the order, McKilligan was sent to a sex-offender’s institute in Co Durham. He said if the conviction had been one day later McKilligan would have been brought into the scope of the Sex Offenders Act which took effect on 1 September 1997.

Outside the court yesterday, Detective Superintendent Trevor Fordy, who led the investigation into the murder, said he was “very, very satisfied”. “It has not easy for the jury because they did not know the background to Dominic McKilligan,” he said.

“Dominic McKilligan, in my view, was a time bomb waiting to go off. Wesley Neailey was an innocent vulnerable little boy who was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Mr Fordy paid tribute to Wesley’s family who had endured “a month of hell” when the child disappeared in June 1997. He said: “It is not up to me to direct any blame at any other agency. I think we have all got to look at what is currently in place at the moment and see how we can make it better in the future. Perhaps it is the system that is not right and maybe we need to change it. I would never like anything like this to happen again.”

Earlier, Patrick Cosgrove QC, for the defence, said that McKilligan had himself been abused for 18 months when he was nine years old. He also criticised the care authorities who had given his client “minimal” support after his release from a young offenders’ institute in September 1997. Last night, the Health minister John Hutton said that his department was reviewing the case. “There is deep concern about this tragic case and what appears to be significant shortcomings in the way public authorities handled the care and supervision of Dominic McKilligan,” a spokeswoman said.

R.I.P Wesley (pic above)

The government has admitted there were “shortcomings in the way the public authorities handled the care and supervision” of McKilligan.

After the verdict, it emerged that McKilligan had a previous conviction for gross indecent assault against four boys in his home town of Bournemouth, for which he had served a three-year supervision order.

But because of the timing of his previous conviction McKilligan missed being added to the sex offenders register by just one day.

The Department of Health said: “There is deep concern about this tragic case… a review of the case is currently under way and officials are working closely with authorities to make sure that the review is completed quickly, gives a full and honest examination of what happened, and includes independent oversight.”

On the steps of the court Detective Superintendent Trevor Fordy, who led the investigation into Wesley’s murder, said: “Dominic McKilligan, in my view, was a time bomb waiting to go off.”

Judge Mr Justice Bennett, sentencing McKilligan to life for murder and nine years for rape, told him: “You are a dangerous, manipulative, callous paedophile and killer.”

The case has prompted calls for changes to the law on sex offenders and for a national network of treatment centres for young sex offenders.

NSPCC Director of Child Protection, Neil Hunt, said after the verdict: “Dominic McKilligan was already a seriously disturbed boy by 14 years of age.

“He was in local authority care and assessed as a very grave risk to children.”

The jury took two hours and 50 minutes to find the 19-year-old guilty of the offences committed in Newcastle in June last year.

McKilligan had gained Wesley’s trust in the weeks before, after striking up a conversation in the street.

The 11-year-old would occasionally hang around McKilligan’s garage where the student was working on his cars.

On Friday 5 June, Wesley rode on his bike to McKilligan’s house. Within an hour he had been murdered.

Dumped body

The prosecution said it was likely the boy was killed after he turned down the student’s sexual advances.

After the killing, McKilligan drove to a village on the outskirts of Newcastle and dumped his body in a quiet country lane.

That night he turned up at his part-time work delivering pizzas, though he had tried to get out of it.

Two days after the murder, McKilligan drove his unwitting flatmate along the same country lane he had dumped the boy’s body.

He appeared fascinated with what he had done, but never let on to his companion.

As the police search stepped up for Wesley, McKilligan, posing as an ordinary member of the public, would report a sighting of the boy to detectives.

‘Tragic accident’

He nearly got away with his crime, but for a tip off from a former care worker three weeks after the murder about his past.

A police search of his house uncovered a cheque made out to Wesley, which linked the student with his victim.

The net closed in on McKilligan in the days to come, and eventually a month after the murder he led detectives to the boy’s body.

He maintained his innocence, however, and claimed Wesley’s death had been a tragic accident.

Wesley had fallen from the car in McKilligan’s garage, he said, after he swung back the doors violently to confront what he thought was an intruder.

McKilligan said he then panicked and dumped the body