An ex-policeman who stabbed his lover to death in a frenzied and merciless attack was today ordered to serve at least 18 years in jail before he can be freed.
William Coulter, 52, went berserk and knifed mother-of-two Gillian Doherty 30 times in a drunken rage at their home in Portstewart, Co Derry.
Relatives of the murder victim and women’s campaigners described the heavy tariff imposed by Lord Justice Nicholson as a signal that the courts were finally getting tough on domestic violence.
As he sentenced Coulter, the judge referred to him as a lying monster who had beaten Ms Doherty for months.
That reign of terror came to a tragic end when the couple rowed in their bedroom after a night out in January 2003.
Even though Antrim Crown Court, sitting in Ballymena, heard the victim struck Coulter on the face with a wine glass, the judge stressed any provocation did not justify the awful violence that followed.
He said: “You got hold of the knife and threw her on to the bed. She was defenceless, she was helpless.
“As you stabbed her she attempted to ward off the blows, sustaining serious injuries in the process.
“At these stages of self-defence she must have been alive and if you had stopped your frenzied assault she might have survived.
“Assuredly if she had, you would have parted company forever and she would have been able to return to the normal life which she had been living before you came into her life.”
Coulter, who once served as a full-time reservist in the Royal Ulster Constabulary, was a chronic alcoholic, his trial heard.
After Ms Doherty’s marriage broke up he moved into the home at Mill Road in the coastal town she shared with her two sons, now aged 21 and 15.
The murdered woman’s children were both in court along with her brother Ian Warner to hear the sentence handed down.
Afterwards Mr Warner said the family were relieved the killing had not been treated as a lesser crime because it involved a domestic situation.
He said: “We hope that this will set a precedent for similar cases.
“It’s to be hoped that much longer sentences in length, with the new legislation on domestic violence, will be a turning point.
“I would urge anyone living in these circumstances to seek help from the police, Women’s Aid or any other relevant organisation before, as in Gillian’s case, it’s too late.”