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Two men sentenced for murder of Donald Fraser-Rennie in Ballymena

Belfast crown court with photo of victim inset.

Two men who murdered Donald Fraser-Rennie were sentenced today (Tuesday 2 May) at Belfast Crown Court.

Steven Hunter (32) from Lanntara, Ballee and Samuel Atcheson (36), from Crebilly Road, both pleaded guilty to the murder of 33-year-old Donald Fraser-Rennie, who was brutally attacked and found dead in a flat in the Ballykeel 1 area of Ballymena in September 2020. 

Steven Hunter was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment and Samuel Atcheson was sentenced to 16 years imprisonment.

PPS Senior Public Prosecutor Mairead Lavery said:

“This was a cowardly, violent and unprovoked attack on Donald Fraser-Rennie who was vulnerable at the time. The defendants inflicted multiple injuries on the deceased consistent with a sustained assault, part of which they videoed.

“Following the attack, the defendants left the scene and tried to conceal and destroy evidence including burning clothing that they had been wearing. When interviewed by police both defendants tried to blame the other.

“The prosecution team in the PPS’s Serious Crime Unit worked closely with the PSNI to build a robust prosecution case, including recovering mobile phone footage and records, CCTV and forensic evidence, resulting in guilty pleas. We would also like to thank all civilian witnesses who made statements that assisted the investigation.

“Whilst these guilty pleas have saved Donald’s family the ordeal of a trial, the family have lost a loving fiancé and father due to the cowardly acts of Steven Hunter and Samuel Atcheson.

“This was a shocking attack on a defenceless man and while nothing can bring Donald back, we hope the conclusion of this case can bring some comfort to his loved ones.”

Commenting following the sentencing Detective Inspector Claire McGarvey said:

“Officers, along with colleagues from the Ambulance Service, attended Atcheson’s home in the Ballykeel area of the town in the early hours of Wednesday 30 September 2020. Here Donald Fraser-Rennie was found lying on the floor and covered in blood, and was sadly subsequently pronounced dead at the scene.

“We know the attack took place the previous day, on the afternoon of 29 September.

“CCTV footage shows all three men together in the early afternoon.  Having purchased alcohol, they head in the direction of Atcheson’s flat.  And it’s here that the vicious and sustained attack, carried out by the defendants, takes place.

“Footage captured from Hunter’s mobile, taken later that afternoon, shows parts of a distressingly violent beating.  The video clip had been deleted before the defendant’s phone was seized, but was recovered thanks to colleagues in our Cyber Crime Unit.

“The attack by both defendants was brutal, and their actions in the hours that followed were callous.  It’s the early hours of the next day before emergency services are contacted.  In the interim period, the two leave the scene and try to destroy evidence, including their clothing.”

Detective Inspector McGarvey continued:

“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. 

“Donald's family have lost their loved one.  The life of a loving fiancé and father was taken in the most brutal and shocking of attacks, and there are no words that can ease their pain. Today my thoughts remain with them.” 


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