Pub landlord killer sees life sentence raised to 16 years

A DRINKER who murdered a pub landlord after driving over him has had his minimum jail term increased.

Lee McNamara was originally ordered to serve at least 13 and a half years as part of his life sentence for killing Steven Curran in the car park of The Dolphin Inn, in Whitecraig, East Lothian.

But appeal judges at the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh yesterday quashed the sentence and jailed McNamara for 16 years.

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At his trial McNamara was told he would have served 15 years had he not pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of culpable homicide before being convicted of murder. Mr Curran's widow Jill welcomed the decision, which she admitted came as a surprise to her.

She said: “No punishment is going to be severe enough for that kind of crime. I personally thought the discount would be taken away but I didn't believe they would increase the original sentence.” Drink-fuelled McNamara, a plasterer, formerly of Carberry Court, Whitecraig, had waited to ambush Mr Curran, 47, when he left the premises after closing time in October 2010. McNamara had been drinking in the pub and told friends he was going to wait for his victim and “bang” him.

Lord Carloway, sitting with Lord Mackay and Lady Cosgrove, said that no discount on the sentence ought to have been given and the 15-year starting point taken by the judge was unduly lenient.

The senior judge said: “This was a murder in which he had deliberately waited for the deceased to emerge from his business premises with a view to attacking him. In that sense the attack was premeditated.

“One of the main aggravating features of the murder is that it was committed in the course of a robbery of the deceased of his keys and car. These are significant elements to be taken into account when determining the appropriate sentence and the court does not consider that due weight was given to them by the trial judge.”

The appeal judges said that McNamara’s criminal record, which included a conviction for assault, should also have played a bigger role in the sentencing.

Footage of the fatal attack was shown at his trial and watched by Mr Curran’s widow, who described it as “a sickening and cowardly attack on an innocent man”.

Mr Curran was punched and fell to the ground before he was struck again and robbed of his car keys. McNamara then returned and kicked the victim who was left lying motionless behind the car before it was driven over him.

The murderer drove off down the A1 road and crashed into the central reservation near Dunbar, in East Lothian, after losing control of the vehicle. He later told a nurse that he had been driving at about 120mph when the collision occurred.

Police later called at the inn and found the victim’s body at the rear of the pub.