PPS statement on the sentencing of Raymond O’Neill for the murder of Jennifer Dornan

Publication date:

Raymond O’Neill (44) was sentenced today at Belfast Crown Court to serve a minimum of 22 years in prison for the murder of mother-of-three Jennifer Dornan (30) and for arson almost seven years ago.

Ciaran McQuillan, Head of the PPS Serious Crime Unit, said: “Jennifer Dornan was a devoted mother to her three young children and a beloved daughter, sister, aunt and friend. She had just returned from a night out with friends on 2 August 2015 when she was brutally murdered by Raymond O’Neill in her own home, where she was entitled to feel safe.

“Jennifer was alone and vulnerable when O’Neill followed her home and entered her house uninvited. In what must have been a terrifying ordeal, he attacked her, stabbing her to death with a knife from her own kitchen. He then set fire to Jennifer’s home with her inside, presumably in an attempt to destroy evidence, before fleeing Northern Ireland shortly afterwards to evade arrest. O’Neill has shown a callous disregard for Jennifer’s family throughout by continuing to deny what he has done. Despite his conviction for her murder, his denials mean we still do not know why he targeted Jennifer or the full circumstances in which she died.

“The loss of Jennifer has caused her loved ones immeasurable anguish, which was compounded as the case against O’Neill unfolded. They have shown great strength, bravery and patience throughout the investigation and prosecution process, and we thank them for that.

“Our thoughts remain with them and we hope the conclusion of this case will give some consolation to them and to all who miss Jennifer.

“This has been a result of extremely close and collaborative working between the prosecution team in the PPS Serious Crime Unit, Counsel, and the PSNI’s Major Investigation Team. The PPS engaged with police from the earliest stages of their investigation in this very complex circumstantial but ultimately compelling case.

“Any murder is appalling, but Jennifer is but one of far too many women who have been murdered in Northern Ireland in recent years. We in the PPS are aware that violence and the fear of violence has a devastating impact on the lives of women and girls.

“The PPS is committed to working with all our partners in the criminal justice system and other stakeholders to do all we can to tackle the scourge of violence against women and girls in our society. We work tirelessly to build cases and bring offenders to justice where there is the evidence to do so. We are also committed to dealing sensitively with families, keeping them updated at key points as cases progress, and signposting them to specialist sources of support.”