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Dublin: 13 °C Tuesday 16 October, 2018

Man accused of 'disgusting and repulsive' murder of elderly brothers had mental disorders, court told

Both men had special needs and were found dead by their home help.

Image: Sasko Lazarov/

A PROSECUTOR HAS told a double murder trial that the accused had made a decision to kill two elderly brothers in acts of extreme violence.

However, the defendant’s barrister said that the ‘poisoned gift’ of mental disorders he’d been given at birth had played a role in his ‘disgusting and repulsive acts’ and thus diminished his responsibility.

Both sides were giving their closing speeches to the Central Criminal Court today in the trial of 30-year-old Alan Cawley.

Cawley of Four Winds, Corrinbla, Ballina, Co Mayo has admitted killing Thomas Blaine (69) and John (Jack) Blaine (76). However, he has pleaded not guilty to murdering them on 10 July 2013 at New Antrim Street in Castlebar. Both had special needs and were found dead by their home help. They had been beaten.

Denis Vaughan Buckley SC, prosecuting, told the jury that there was no issue, but that the accused had caused their deaths.

“The issue is whether that amounted to murder or manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility,” he said. “It’s the prosecution case that it amounts to murder.”

He pointed to the evidence of the State’s psychiatrist, whose opinion was that Cawley’s intoxication at the time had led him to act in an extremely impulsive and violent way when he killed them.

“He told gardai that he’d consumed an amount of alcohol and drugs throughout the day and repeated that to medical professionals,” he said.

“Jack Blaine, who’s 76, leaves his house at 23.56 to go across the road to Rocky’s bar to get a cup of tea,” he noted from the evidence. “John Ralph brings his cup across the road and leaves it on his windowsill.”

He reminded the jury of Ralph’s description of the men as ‘harmless and very well loved’ in the town.

“Alan Cawley is seen walking past and looks left into the entrance of the bar,” he continued, recalling a garda’s opinion that Cawley had seen an opportunity for himself.

“He walked past, but then turned around and backtracked, and engaged with Jack Blaine on the roadway,” he continued.

He reminded the jury that they had then entered the Blaine home, with the accused reemerging just over an hour later.

“During his time in the house, he assaulted Jack Blaine and Tom Blaine, causing their deaths,” he said.

“He made decisions to kill the two persons concerned in acts of extreme violence,” he added.

He reminded the jury that the State’s psychiatrist had said that his two personality disorders were not mental disorders under the Criminal Law Insanity Act 2006, as required for a defence of diminished responsibility. She was also of the opinion that he did not have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), as claimed by the defence.

“He may have been unable to control his impulses on the night but that does not mean he had a mental disorder,” he concluded. “I suggest you should find him guilty of the murder of Jack Blaine and of the murder of Thomas Blaine on the night.”


Caroline Biggs SC, defending, said that when the jurors heard about the brutal killings of two physically and mentally vulnerable men, they must have thought that she and her team had sought to defend the indefensible.

She said she had no doubt that the jury had found her client’s acts repulsive and disgusting.

“That disgust and hatred for what he did is palpable in this room,” she said.

However, she said that the defence’s submission was that he had a mental disorder.

“He had it from birth and he’ll have it until the day he dies,” she said.

She noted that the State’s psychiatrist had testified that he had alcohol and opiate dependency syndrome.

“Looking back at his history of torment, going back to the time he was six months old, sedated from 2005 to 2012 by high-end medication, sedated for most of his adult life to sedate that torment, are you surprised he likes to go to alcohol and other drugs to sedate himself?” she asked.

She noted that he had been released from prison just days before the killing.

“He was let out in July of 2013 without a prescription for anything, having spent most of his adult life on tranquillisers prescribed by competent doctors,” she said. “But this is all down to drink?”

She said that the Act in question said that it was the jury alone who must decide whether he suffered from a mental disorder at the time.

“You have a constitutional mandate to decide it,” she added.

She suggested that ‘pigeon-holing this into intoxication’ was perhaps the easy way for the State’s doctor to deal with the issue, but that it was far more complex.

She reminded the jury that, when charged, her client had said he was sorry for all the torture that he had put everybody through.

“There is absolutely no doubt that he’s put the Blaine family and his own family through torture,” she said. “He’s also himself had a life of torture.”

She reminded the jury that he was first seen by a psychologist at two years of age and had an emergency admission to a psychiatric facility at 11, the same age at which he was diagnosed with ADHD.

“Section 6 (of the Criminal Law Insanity Act 2006) allows you, the peers who judge Cawley, to accept perhaps that life of torture and torment is based on a mental disorder recognised by clinicians worldwide,” she said.

She said that her client shouldn’t be in the same category as people who go out and get drunk and then do reckless things.

“Alan Cawley didn’t ask for these disorders. He was born with them,” she said. “He didn’t ask for a life of torment. It was a poisoned gift he was given at birth.”

She asked for a verdict of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

Mr Justice Paul Coffey had told the four women and eight men of the jury that he will charge them on Monday and that it’s expected they will also begin their deliberations then.

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Natasha Reid

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