Belfast Telegraph

A few minutes of terror which struck fear into a community
'He never even had a chance to waken'.

By Ben Lowry
12 February 2005

It was shortly after 6am on a Sunday morning that the quiet of an affluent Belfast suburb was shattered by a rampage by two brothers who burst into three houses in search of car keys.

In the first of these properties, 56-year-old Maurice McCracken lay sleeping beside his wife, when Gerard Michael Donegan (then aged 21) and his brother Kevin Barry Moyna (then 18), both of the same Ross Road address, entered the bedroom of the Strangford Avenue home.

Mrs Maureen McCracken later gave evidence that immediately after coming into the room on that morning in March 2003, the elder Donegan brother called her husband a "bastard" and began hitting him about the head with a hammer.

"He never had a chance to waken," she said.

The jury saw photographs of Mr McCracken's blood-soaked pillow, but for evidential reasons the nine men and three women were prevented by the judge from seeing horrific photographs of the victim in the aftermath of his operation.

Surgeons operated on for more than 12 hours, during which damaged parts of his brain were removed.

Mrs McCracken testified during the trial that her husband was "just a memory of the person I knew" who had "no intellectual capacity".

Other neighbours were injured as the brothers moved on to other houses. Mr John Harris was left with a depressed skull fracture as he attempted to defend his 88-year-old father Maurice Harris. Margaret, the pensioner's wife, later suffered a heart attack.

The pair then moved on to a third house, where they escaped in a car.

The rampage, which lasted a few minutes, destroyed a life but Donegan, the principal attacker, could be free in his late 20s if he gets early remission for good behaviour.

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