Teenage killer jailed after stabbing lawyer who accidentally bumped into him in busy city centre

A teenager who murdered a lawyer with a stolen screwdriver after he accidentally bumped into him in a busy city shopping centre will serve at least 15 years behind bars.

Tuesday, 17th December 2019, 2:07 pm
Updated Tuesday, 17th December 2019, 5:15 pm

Ewan Ireland stabbed married dad Peter Duncan through the heart in Newcastle's Eldon Square, in front of shoppers and children.

The 52-year-old solicitor had been making his way home from work when Ireland took exception to the "unintended and accidental contact" and attacked him with a screwdriver he had just stolen from Poundland.

The 18-year-old killer, who was just 17 at the time, already had a long criminal record, had just been released from a Young Offenders’ Institution, was on bail after admitting an affray charge, was subject to a conditional discharge and was under investigation for other serious offending.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Teenage killer Ewan Ireland leaving court in North Shields at an earlier hearing. Picture: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire
Teenage killer Ewan Ireland leaving court in North Shields at an earlier hearing. Picture: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

Mr Duncan's wife Maria, who is the mother of their two boys, aged 15 and 12, has said her family's lives have been devastated by the loss of the devoted dad.

In a heartbreaking victim impact statement she said she is haunted by what happened that day and added: "I felt like I had been stabbed through the heart."

Mrs Duncan had gone to meet her husband and had called and texted when he did not get off the bus he had been due to catch.

She was then contacted by the police, who told her to go to hospital.

Northumbria Police undated handout photo of Peter Duncan. Picture: Northumbria Police/PA Wire.

Mrs Duncan said: "The doctor told me there was nothing they could do to save him.

"He had been stabbed through the heart with a screwdriver.

"Those words haunt me every single day.

"I asked to see Peter, to believe what the words they were telling me was true."

Northumbria Police undated handout photo of teenage killer Ewan Ireland who stabbed to death a lawyer as he walked through a shopping centre to get home. Picture: Northumbria Police/PA Wire

Mr Duncan's son, who is about to sit his GCSEs, had been in the city on a cinema trip on the day his dad was killed and obliviously passed the crime scene.

He said in his statement: "I even thought about going to speak to an officer at the scene to ask what had happened but thought he probably wouldn't tell me so I walked to the bus stop.

"I got home and my mam and brother were waiting for me, both upset.

"I was told there had been an incident in town and dad wasn't coming home."

The teen said he is angry that the troublemaker who killed his dad was under investigation for serious offending yet allowed to remain free.

He said: "I am angry he was free and can't understand why he wasn't locked up.

"If he had been my dad would still be with us.

"He knew what he was doing and went out that evening to seriously hurt someone.

"Dad didn't deserve what happened to him but he does deserve justice."

Mr Duncan's dad Ian said the death has "created a black hole" in the family's lives and said: "There is no light at the end of this tunnel, just a sense of loss and grief."

Ireland, of West Avenue, Westerhope, admitted murder, possession of an offensive weapon and theft of a "quantity of screwdrivers" stolen from Poundland on the day of Mr Duncan's death.

Mr Justice Lavender sentenced Ireland to be detained at Her Majesty's Pleasure, a life sentence.

The judge said it was Mr Duncan's "bad luck" to bump into his killer that day.

He added: "Peter Duncan was a hard working solicitor of 52 with a loving family.

"You ended his life and you brought lifelong misery and grief to others, especially his parents, his widow, his young children, his brothers and their families."

Prosecutor Richard Wright QC told Newcastle Crown Court Ireland had been behaving in an "agitated and aggressive manner" as he and other youths loitered near the doors of the shopping complex that early evening.

Mr Wright added: "Peter Duncan's journey was unwittingly about to take him directly into the path of the aggressive and agitated defendant.

"The doorway into the shopping centre was busy with shoppers coming and going and congested by the youths loitering in the area.

"As Peter Duncan walked into the complex it was his misfortune to accidentally collide with the defendant.

"It was plainly and unintended and accidental contact but the defendant reacted to it by immediately launching an attack upon Peter Duncan.

"As Ewan Ireland turned on Peter Duncan, the older man took hold of him in an effort to fend off attack and in an attempt to restrain him.

"The two of them stumbled together into the shopping complex and during the tussle the defendant briefly went to the ground.

"Whether it was a perceived loss of face or just his inherent levels of aggression, the defendant resolved to escalate his use of violence and removed one of the screwdrivers, that he had stolen minutes earlier, as a weapon.

"He wielded it in his hand and used it to deliberately stab Peter Duncan in the area of his chest."

The court heard a young woman who was present in the shopping centre had tried to separate Ireland from his victim but he did not desist until Mr Duncan was stabbed and then he fled on foot through the city.

Mr Wright added: "As Ireland was running away from what he had done, Peter Ducan was dying.

"The screwdriver had penetrated his chest and the track of the wound had passed through both the left and right ventricles of the heart.

"Peter was treated at the scene by an off duty doctor who came across the incident and tried, together with paramedics, to save his life.

"It was to no avail and he died that evening."

The court heard Ireland handed himself in to the police later that night but feigned ignorance on arrest by asking: "Murder, what murder?"

He then refused to answer questions during interview by detectives.

At the time of the killing, Ireland was on bail, awaiting sentence for another offence of affray, committed in June of last year. He pleaded guilty in May.

The affray offence involved him throwing a punch at another youth during a confrontation at the Hoppings fairground in Newcastle.

The brawl resulted in "at persistent and sustained outbreak of public disorder".

Caroline Goodwin QC, defending, said Ireland had an ambition to become a footballer but was "unable to control his behaviour".