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Uncle who beat his nephew (11) to death with a hammer sentenced to life in prison

The judge described the murder as a “horrific breach of trust”.

Image: RollingNews.ie

A ‘SPECIAL, LOVING’ boy who touched the hearts of everyone who ever met him” was horrifically murdered by his uncle, a man he trusted, the Central Criminal Court heard today.

A sentence hearing for the 28-year-old, who pleaded guilty last month to murdering the 11-year-old in the south-west of the country on November 3, 2019, heard that the boy was struck with a hammer and stabbed 27 times in the torso, arms and neck.

The court heard that the boy’s mother believed his uncle was “obsessed” with her son.

Speaking outside the court, the grieving mother also called on the Minister for Justice Helen McEntee to change Section 252 of the Children Act which prevents child murder victims from being identified.

She said: “I deserve to be able to leave this court today and tell the world about my wonderful son. The kind, caring, loving, talented little boy that my son is, his name and his legacy deserve to be out there for all the world to see and hear. I do not want my boy to only be remembered for how his life was ended.”

Mr Justice Michael White described the murder as a “horrific breach of trust” and an “unspeakably violent crime” before sentencing the defendant to the mandatory term of life imprisonment.

Statements

The boy’s mother and father delivered powerful statements to the court in which they described their son as a popular and sporty boy who could always make his many friends laugh. The boy’s mother said she discovered that she had a half-brother when she was 12 years old and she welcomed him into her life, taking care of him like any big sister would.

She said she trusted him and loved him and her son felt safe with him but he took her boy’s trust and his innocence. “To think how afraid [my son] must have been in his final moments will haunt me for the rest of my life,” she said.

Detective Garda Eoin McDonagh detailed the background to the murder, telling Michael Delaney SC for the Director of Public Prosecutions that the alarm was raised when the defendant arrived at a garda station at 6.40pm on November 3, 2019 with blood dripping from cuts to his right hand. He told the garda on duty, “I’ve killed my nephew,” and described where to find him in his grandmother’s house. He further told gardai that someone named “Henry” had told him to stab his nephew.

Gardai discovered the boy’s body on the kitchen floor with blood on his face and head and surrounded by a pool of blood. DNA from blood on a claw hammer found nearby was later matched to the deceased.

The boy’s mother told the court that her son was “the most beautiful boy” and that when he was born she felt a love she had never experienced before. He was, she said, a happy, friendly, kind-hearted, confident boy, “a natural entertainer who left an impression on everyone he met.” He was full of love and adored his family, loved animals and trusted everyone. He was sporty and followed in his father’s footsteps as a promising soccer player.

She added: “His life was just beginning when it was taken in such a cruel and horrible way by someone he trusted.” His ambition was such that he could have done anything he put his mind to, she said.

A statement by the boy’s father was read to the court by Delaney. He said he was a proud and loving father of an “amazing, special, loving boy who touched the hearts of everyone who ever met him.” He was caring towards his brothers and was passionate about sport and his favourite team, Liverpool.

He recalled bringing his son to his first Liverpool game and after they had finished singing the club anthem, “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” the boy turned to him, hugged him and said: “Dad, I love you.” Even now, he said, his son makes him laugh and smile. “I could stand here forever, proudly talking about [my son] and the joy he brought to our lives.”

He added: “Our lives are damaged and changed forever. It is a very sad world where a child can be murdered by someone they trusted. Other innocent children are safer with the perpetrator of this horrific crime behind bars.”

Trauma

Detective Garda McDonagh further revealed that Deputy State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster found two blunt force trauma wounds to the boy’s head that were consistent with a blow from a hammer. However, the cause of death was haemorrhage and shock due to multiple stab wounds. She identified 27 in total including stab wounds to the heart, spleen, liver and kidney and a “through and through” wound to the neck. Incised slash wounds to the forearms, she said, were likely defensive injuries. Significant force was used, she said, and the deepest wounds penetrated to 13 centimetres.

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Detective Garda McDonagh said the blade used was never found despite an extensive search in an area of wetland where the defendant told gardaí he discarded it.

The garda further told the court that earlier on the day of the murder the defendant asked his nephew to help him clean out his mother’s shed. The two of them were alone together in the house from about 4.30pm until the defendant was seen on CCTV leaving at about 5.30pm, having changed his clothes.

During interviews with gardai the defendant said that he was “messing” with his nephew and he “lost it”. He said he didn’t mean to kill him and that he lashed out. Detective Garda McDonagh said: “After he snapped he said he saw the knife in his hand and the cut.”

He described to gardai that there was “slagging” between them and his nephew made a comment that his uncle would be bringing his boyfriend to an upcoming family wedding. He remembered hitting his nephew and thought he could have used the hammer. He said voices in his head told him to murder his nephew but he added that he knew right from wrong.

A consultant psychiatrist would later state that the defendant was known to mental health services and had reported hearing voices since 2016, but the psychiatrist said that he did not appear to be psychotic.

The boy’s mother described him as being “obsessed” with her son, saying he was always hugging him and calling him, “my king”. She said: “It was too much, he had an obsession with him.”

The defendant’s barrister Mark Nicholas SC told the court that his client had written an apology in which he took full responsibility and said he was “truly and deeply sorry for my actions.” He said he was sorry for the pain, grief and devastation he had caused and added: “No words of apology will make a difference but if I could wind the clock back, I would without hesitation.”

About the author:

Eoin Reynolds

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