The Knife Man Cometh

Big Joe Henry is fortunate to be alive. I realised that much three years ago while speaking to him in his Belfast home where a year earlier he had been stabbed by an assailant said to be a “well-known thug and scumbag.” Although severely wounded and losing two litres of blood he survived the vicious knife attack at the hands of the man who in 2005 had stabbed Robert McCartney to death a mere few hundred yards away from the Eliza Street Terrace home of Joe Henry.
In the words of Catherine McCartney Jim "Dim" McCormick, one of two brothers convicted of the attack on Joe Henry, was “well known for using a knife on people”. The evidence of Joe Henry in court left little room for doubt.

Dim was wearing a blue Berghaus jacket with grey stripes on the side, bleached jeans and white trainers. He had his right hand in his pocket the whole time. Then he pulled out a long steel butcher’s knife, about 12 inches long in his right hand. He never said a word to me. Then he stuck the knife in my neck and ripped it up the side. I heard my skin actually splitting open. He then retrieved the knife from my neck.

Harrowing, chilling.

That McCormick remained free to prowl the streets stalking victims and to ultimately launch his murderous assault on Joe Henry was in part due to PSNI political machinations. For the optics it had contrived a trial in the sure knowledge that the man it put in the dock accused of murdering Robert McCartney was not the person who wielded the knife. At worst, it seems, Terence Davison was intent on brawling, wholly unaware that others had murder in mind. McCormick was tried on the much less serious charge of affray. There was only ever going to be one outcome: acquittals all round.  It was a trial set up as an end in itself, not for the purpose of securing a conviction. 

McCormick walked free to stab again. Along with a brother he brought the arrogance of anticipated impunity to the attack on Joe Henry, a clear residue from his days spent strutting with the Do you know who I am gang? The trial judge concluded:

It is particularly chilling that the defendants carried out this assault in broad daylight, on a person whom they knew, and at a place where the other occupants in the house also knew them. It appears that they felt they could carry out such an assault immune from being held accountable for their crime.

Catherine McCartney in summing up her attitude to the outcome of the McCormick trial said:

I am glad for the Henrys. I am particularly glad they have got justice and that Joe Henry was able to live and brave enough to give evidence in court.

Had those in Maginnis’s Bar on the night her brother was killed been capable of similar courage, Joe Henry would have been spared his ordeal. The McCartney women may have got some satisfaction. They have still to get justice.  

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