March 2022

Plea at eleventh hour as paedophile admits brutally stabbing horse

A County Tyrone horse trader who repeatedly denied causing brutal injuries to a horse in a case described by a judge as having no defence, has changed his plea on the eve of a contest.

Convicted sex offender Mark McGurk, 23, was bailed to Glenpark Road, Gortin while awaiting the case to be dealt with, but is currently serving a prison term for sexual activity with a child.

Once in custody, his defence lawyer asked for bail in the horse stabbing matter to be revoked, however McGurk stubbornly continued to maintain his denial of the charges.

He was on bail for these matters when he sexually assaulted a schoolgirl while intoxicated on cocaine and alcohol at a birthday party on October 5, 2019.

After admitting a lesser charge, having previously been accused of rape and while awaiting sentencing, McGurk was controversially permitted a bail variation to accompany his girlfriend to her college formal at the Europa Hotel in Belfast.

He was ultimately jailed for 15 months, thereafter appearing before Dungannon Magistrates’ Court by video-link and continuing to deny the horse stabbing charges, despite District Judge Michael Ranaghan repeatedly warning he would impose the maximum sentence available, describing the case as having no defence.

Numerous ‘final’ adjournments followed, and a contest was due to be heard, with a vet on standby to give evidence on the injuries the horse sustained, which subsequently had to be put down.

But at the eleventh hour, McGurk finally accepted deliberately causing unnecessary suffering to the horse. The horse died of the injuries. 

On the basis of this plea, the prosecution agreed not to proceed with additional charges of damaging the horse and possessing a knife with intent to commit an offence, as this formed part of the accepted matter.

The case was adjourned for sentencing in May on a date to be fixed.

February 2022

Paedophile horse trader who left child victim traumatised is jailed for 7 months

A horse trader who left a child severely traumatised after engaging in sexual activity has been jailed and placed under a Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO).

Mark McGurk (23) previously from Cookstown and latterly Aghinduff Park, Dungannon was originally charged with rape, which he denied.

On the morning a trial was to begin at Dungannon Crown Court, McGurk admitted a lesser charge leading to immediate sex-offender registration.

The victim and her family were present as McGurk stood in the dock for sentencing.

The court heard McGurk attended a birthday party in Cookstown on 5 October 2019 and became intoxicated on alcohol and cocaine.

The victim was also at the party and when it ended, she joined McGurk in a male’s car for “a lap around the town”.

During this they stopped at a shop where McGurk purchased condoms, initially telling police the victim did this, although later corrected that.

They travelled to McGurk’s home where he and the victim got out, but the other male drove off.

Her phone battery ran out, but McGurk stated he would get her home.

However once indoors, sex took place.

In respect of press interest Judge Sherrard told McGurk while this may have been distressing “you are the author of your own misfortune.”

He imposed a prison term of 15 months, to be served half in custody and half on licence, along with a five year SOPO.