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'Only that for the life of my baby' - Family's anger over killer's 3-and-a-half-year sentence

“He will never come back from the ground and she will be out in three years.”

Image: RollingNews.ie

A SENTENCE OF three-and-a-half years for a convicted killer was criticised by the victim’s family today.

Norma Phillips, 47, was convicted of manslaughter for the killing of 36-year-old Romanian national Stefan Neanu at the killer’s home on the Phibsboro Road on April 12, 2015.

Phillips, who is originally from Zimbabwe, was charged with murder but a jury found her guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter.

At the Central Criminal Court today Justice Margaret Heneghan sentenced her to three and a half years in prison with a further two years suspended. The judge backdated her sentence as she has already spent nine months in custody.

When the sentence was read out Neanu’s aunt Gabi Corina Tapu stood up and said “only that for the life of my baby”.

Outside the court shortly afterwards she asked: “If your nephew gets killed and the person who killed your nephew gets only three years and a half, are you satisfied?”

She said her nephew was a quiet, honest person and the only bad thing he ever did was meeting Norma Phillips.

She added: “He will never come back from the ground and she will be out in three years.”

Before announcing the sentence Justice Heneghan said that she was taking into account Phillips’s previous good character, genuine remorse and her early plea of guilty to manslaughter that was rejected by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

She said that she also recognised that she had engaged with rehabilitation services. She said aggravating factors were her initial lies to emergency services and gardai when she said that an Irishman had run into her home, stabbed Neanu and then run away. When gardai later told her that Neanu had died, she admitted her part in his death.

Evidence

During four days of evidence, the jury heard that Phillips called the emergency services that Saturday night saying there had been a stabbing and repeating several times “someone stabbed him”. When ambulance, fire brigade and gardai arrived, she told them that a man had run into her home, stabbed Neanu and then run off. At first she was reluctant to allow gardai to enter, telling them: “no guards, just ambulance”.

At Mountjoy Garda Station, when she was told Neanu had died, Phillips changed her story. She gave a voluntary statement saying they had been drinking and an argument broke out but she could not remember what they argued about. Neanu pulled a knife on her and she thought he was going to hurt her. As he waved the knife at her, she said she pushed his hand away in self defence, turning the blade towards him and causing the fatal wound.

State Pathologist Professor Marie Cassidy said the wound, a single stab wound to the heart, could have been caused in the way Phillips described, adding that Neanu would have to have held a “firm” grip on the knife as it was pushed with “some moderate force” into his chest.

Justice Heneghan told the jury that they should find her guilty of manslaughter if they believed she was acting in self defence but the force she used was not reasonable in the circumstances.

Following the brief sentencing hearing at the Central Criminal Court Phillips was immediately put in custody to begin her sentence. On her release she will pay a bond of €300 and the further two year sentence is suspended on the grounds that she be of good behaviour and keep the peace for two years.

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Eoin Reynolds

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