Three men who subjected a kidnap victim to a “level of violence and sadistic torture rarely seen in these courts” were jailed on Tuesday.
Adam Potts, 26, was handed a 14 year sentence with an extended licence period of three years, Mervyn Gibson, 50, was handed an 11 year sentence and 30-year-old Conor Campbell a 38 month sentence.
Jailing the trio at Newry Crown Court, Judge Gordon Kerr KC said that having abducted their victim just after midnight on November 8, 2020 he was held for nine hours and “subjected to what can only be described as torture both physical and mental”.
Potts, from Pine View Court in Gilford; Gibson, from Woodview Park in Tandragee and Campbell, from Pinebank in Craigavon, all entered guilty pleas to kidnaping the victim and inflicting grievous bodily harm with intent on November 8, 2020 as well as possessing weapons with intent to assault.
While Gibson admitted having a crossbow with intent to assault, Potts entered guilty pleas to having a hammer and pliers with the same intent. Rehearsing the facts of the case during his hour long sentencing remarks, Judge Kerr outlined how the victim was at his flat in Co Armagh when just after midnight, Potts and Gibson arrived.
Shoving him on to his sofa, Potts used a hammer to hit him full force on each knee before dragging the “screaming” victim down the stairs where they forced him into a car being driven by Campbell.
On the 15 minute drive to a bungalow in the countryside, Gibson was “constantly” punching and elbowing the terrified victim who “did not retaliate, out of fear”.
When they reached the bungalow, Potts made the victim hold his hand on a windowsill “and smacked his hand twice with the hammer,” breaking his finger before stabbing him in the leg with a knife.
Forced back into the car when Gibson again rained blows on his head and upper body, Campbell drove them over the border while the kidnappers “talked about killing him and feeding him to pigs”.
Fearing he was going to be killed, the victim later told police how they drove around looking for a village “where he would get his head kicked in and he would disappear for good”.
The judge outlined how “they talked about having to burn the car but if they did, they would burn him in it” and eventually, they ended up back at Gibson’s house where he talked about his crossbow and “about getting cocaine or MDMA”.
Gibson shot the victim three times with the crossbow, firstly his left ankle with the bolt “going straight through,” then his right knee and then his left.
That was the last time the victim was shot because even with him screaming in pain again, Gibson was not able to retrieve the bolt from where it was lodged in his kneecap. The court heard the bolt refused to budge despite Gibson pushing and pulling at it with pliers “for five to ten minutes”.
He wasn’t the only one to use the pliers however, as Potts used them to break one of the victim’s fingers. Potts also hit him twice in the testicles with a litre bottle of vodka and stabbed him three times, making the chilling comment at one stage, while sticking the knife into an already existing stab wound, that “I’ll tell you one thing, you have a high tolerance for pain”.
“He also remembered that Potts had bitten his ear and threatened to rip his ear off,” the judge told the court.
More concerned about getting their hands on a bag of cocaine, the assailants “complained about the victim getting blood on the sofa” and bundling him back into car again, he was driven to Portadown and despite his pleas to “just drop him at the hospital,” Campbell said it was “too far out of his way”.
Ditched at the roadside near the bonfire site at Edgarstown at around 8am, the bleeding and badly injured victim tried to wave down passing cars but eventually encountered a man out walking and help was summonsed.
In addition to the crossbow bolt still embedded in his knee, the victim had also sustained stab wounds to his upper and lower limbs, a broken left middle finger as well as generalised facial swelling and bruising.
Surgeons had to insert steel pins in his knee which was held in a brace for six months and “even now, he still has mobility issues and uses a walking stick”.
In addition to significant, ongoing physical pain, the victim continues to suffer serious psychological consequences such as PTSD, disturbed sleep and nightmares with the attack “impacting every aspect of his life and he fears that he may never be able to live alone or independently again”.
Despite those injuries, the victim was able to identify the defendants in a video police line up and the court heard there was also DNA and forensic evidence to connect each of the defendants to the shocking assault. Arrested and interviewed, they all denied involvement but eventually admitted their guilt.
Judge Kerr told the court there were several aggravating factors in the case including that weapons were used in the pre-planned and premeditated attack where the victim was subjected to a “vicious ordeal” over many hours where the trio were “acting as a gang”.
Even though the court heard there was no evidence and no suggestion the victim had done anything wrong, the judge said it was also aggravating that the defendants out of a sense of “vigilante justice” and had left their victim with longterm consequences.
The only mitigation in the case was that the three had admitted their guilt, thereby saving the victim from having to relive his ordeal at their hands. Taking each defendant in turn Judge Kerr revealed that Potts has 68 previous convictions including multiple entries for violence, the most significant of which was a GBH with intent where he stabbed his aunt’s partner in the chest.