Man hacked at victim nine times during frantic machete attack

A drink and drug-fuelled man carried out a frenzied machete attack on another man in the middle of a busy road, leaving him with life-changing injuries. Martin Gilheaney hacked at his victim, James Irwin, 34, nine times with the weapon, following a night of boozing in Accrington on December 4 last year. Gilheaney, 21, said it was his victim calling him a ‘pervert’ that triggered him to lash out in the way that he did.

On Monday, Preston Crown Court heard how the two men had been drinking separately in a nightclub in the town on the evening of December 3, but around 5.30am the following day after the club had closed, CCTV taken from Warner Street showed the pair embroiled in a fight in the road. Footage played in court showed the two men grappling on the floor, while both threw punches at each other, before Gilheaney walked away, leaving Mr Irwin to deal with the blows. Prosecuting, Fiona Clancy said that around 6.15am, Mr Irwin was then spotted taking cash out of an ATM at the Tesco Express fuel station on Manchester Road.

CCTV from the forecourt, and from outside Tiger Lounge on Manchester Road, also played in court, showed Gilheaney arriving back on the scene in his truck, exiting the vehicle wearing Hi-Viz clothing and running towards Mr Irwin brandishing a machete. Ms Clancy said Gilheaney then chased Mr Irwin down Manchester Road, while cars were driving past and people were getting ready to start their Saturday morning. The footage showed the horrifying moments Gilheaney reigned nine blows on his victim, hacking at his legs, torso, arms, feet and head with the machete.

He then left Mr Irwin in the middle of the road, bleeding, and drove away in his truck before Mr Irwin was tended to by off-duty paramedics, who happened to be passing-by. An appeal was launched on social media to find the truck Gilheaney had been driving that night, and he was later arrested by police at the caravan park he lived in at Duncan Square in Oswaldtwistle. Officers noted a strong smell of bleach in the caravan, and recovered the machete from his truck while also finding traces of blood in the vehicle.

Ms Clancy told the court Mr Irwin’s injuries were so severe that he needed to spend five days in hospital, and has since had to quit his job due to nerve damage in his hands and not being able to walk properly. He has also been referred to a physio and has needed to undergo plastic surgery. Defending Gilheaney, Rachel Cooper said her client had had a traumatic upbringing, and struggled to express his emotions in a constructive way, turning to drink and drugs to supress his feelings; and when Mr Irwin called him a ‘pervert’ it triggered something inside him.

She said: “He is from the travelling community, and it is not the done thing for a man to talk about his feelings. He will admit now that he is someone who ascribed to the theory that a man doesn’t address emotion and that’s not what a man does, and they don’t talk about the past. “Since he has been in prison it has been transformative for him, and he acknowledges now that it is better to talk about his feelings and emotions and process them in an insightful way.

“He also could not believe what he had done, and when police questioned him about it, he asked to see the CCTV footage as he could not believe that he would have done such a thing, and admitted that he had been drinking and taking drugs for around five days. “When he saw the footage, he admitted it was him but said he was shocked as he could not remember what happened after the initial fight on Warner Street.” Gilheaney, who has five convictions for four previous offences, pleaded guilty to section 18 wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily and possession of a bladed weapon and was sentenced to six years and eight months in prison.

Judge Richard Gioserano said: “You attacked Mr Irwin with a machete and that is a fearsome weapon. “You hacked at him, not just once, but over and over, and over again. It was a brutal, merciless attack against an unarmed and defenceless man.

“Why you did this is very difficult to understand. The two of you had nothing more than a fist fight earlier and it’s nothing of any greater significance than that, and then you went your separate ways. “But 20 minutes later, now in a van, and armed with a machete, you were back and looking for him and it’s clear that you must have already decided that you were going to try and find him and attack him with a machete and you intended to cause serious harm to him.

“It’s said that when you were fist fighting he called you a ‘pervert’, and I accept that and accept it had an impact on you given your traumatic childhood, but it was 20 minutes later that you came back with a machete. You had plenty of time to get over that word being used. “This was revenge, revenge for the word being used – and after ruminating on it for 20 mins you went back to settle the score.”

Detective Constable Kiren Shah who led the investigation, said: “This was a vicious attack with a machete and Gilheaney inflicted serious injuries on his victim.

“We welcome the sentence imposed by the judge.

“We treat crime involving weapons and knives with the utmost seriousness, it won’t be tolerated.”