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Stephen Silver. PA
stephen silver

Stephen Silver found guilty of the capital murder of Garda Colm Horkan in June 2020

Silver had pleaded not guilty to the capital murder of Garda Colm Horkan in June 2020.

AFTER TWO TRIALS at the Central Criminal Court, a jury has found Stephen Silver, who shot Garda Colm Horkan 11 times with his own gun, guilty of capital murder.

The jury of seven men and five women deliberated for a total of eight hours and 39 minutes before returning their verdict today to Ms Justice Tara Burns.

Silver, who made no reaction to the verdict, now faces the mandatory minimum sentence of 40 years in prison having been convicted of capital murder.

The trial heard that Gda Horkan was a well-regarded member of the force with 25 years’ service and no disciplinary issues on his record. The prosecution told the jury that Gda Horkan had no idea when he signed out his firearm on the afternoon of 17 June, 2020, that he would be shot dead with the same gun just nine hours later.

Detective Garda Colm Horkan Garda Colm Horkan who was murdered by Stephen Silver. Garda Press Garda Press

They maintained Silver had a “seething resentment” toward gardaí and that the shooting of Gda Horkan was “a deliberate action done with the intent of murder”.

Following the verdict, Ms Justice Burns thanked the jury and excused them from jury service for the rest of their lives.

Silver (46), a motorbike mechanic from Aughaward, Foxford, Co Mayo had pleaded not guilty to the murder of Det Garda Horkan knowing or being reckless as to whether he was a member of An Garda Siochana acting in accordance with his duty. He had pleaded guilty to manslaughter at Castlerea, Co. Roscommon on 17 June 2020, and the jury were told the main issue in the trial is Mr Silver’s state of mind at the time of the shooting.

During the trial, the jury heard evidence from Silver that he believed Gda Horkan was “a heavy down from Dublin” who was trying to kill him. He said that Gda Horkan was wearing a Tommy Hilfiger jacket and “didn’t come across” as a garda. He gave evidence that a struggle ensued between them before he fell to the ground, and in the process of getting up he felt the gun on Gda Horkan’s hip.

“He had his hand on the gun and I had my hand on the gun and we wrestled. The gun came out; I couldn’t tell you who took it out,” said Silver.

He said that he felt Gda Horkan “was trying to kill me”.

“I kept shooting until the gun finished and there was no ammunition left,” Silver said.

The jury also heard evidence from Dr Brenda Wright, interim clinical director at the Central Mental Hospital, who said it was her view that Silver’s illness at the time he killed Gda Horkan was such that it impaired his thinking and his judgement and therefore contributed significantly to his actions at that time.

However, witness for the prosecution, consultant psychiatrist Professor Harry Kennedy told the jury that he found “no positive evidence” that Silver had suffered a relapse of bipolar affective disorder at the time he shot dead Gda Horkan.

Speaking outside the Central Criminal Court, Gda Horkan’s brother Brendan said the verdict gave the family a measure of closure.

“Colm was the best of us, a gentleman through and through – he deserved this verdict today,” he said.

He thanked all those involved in securing justice.

“We were horrified and shocked to the core to learn of the circumstances which led to Colm’s death as he went about his job policing the streets and keeping the general public protected and safe at all times.”

He added: “Colm was a fantastic son, brother, uncle and friend, and his memory remains etched in our minds every minute of every day and today’s verdict, while giving us some closure, will never replace the man who was the glue in our family that bonded all together. We love him dearly.”

In a statement, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said it was a “sombre day, in particular for Colm Horkan’s family and friends, and for everybody in Colm’s wider Garda family”. 

“An Garda Síochána notes the verdict of the jury today for the capital murder of Detective Garda Colm Horkan.

“Colm went to work in Castlerea Garda Station on the 17 June 2020. It was a routine day’s work for Colm. Colm was murdered on duty and never came home to his family.

“Colm’s death reinforces to every member of An Garda Síochána the reality of the dangers and the uncertainty of the work that we face every day.”

The Garda Commissioner paid tribute to the Garda investigation team in Castlerea Garda Station, supported by the wider Garda organisation, which he said “professionally investigated” all the circumstances of Gda Horkan’s murder.

“That investigation is a tribute to the professionalism of An Garda Síochána and to Colm.

“Finally, today we stand with and support Colm’s father Marty, his siblings, wider family and friends and we remember his mother Dolores and twin sister Colette.

“Today, as every day, we remember our colleague Colm who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect the local community he served so well. He will always be remembered as the kind, caring man, and professional and empathetic Garda, that he was.”

Minister for Justice Simon Harris said his thoughts with the family and friends of Gda Horkan and his colleagues in An Garda Síochána.

In a statement, he said: “Colm’s murder in June 2020 shocked us all. It stole from his family and friends a beloved, kind and gentle man who served with duty and distinction, keeping his community safe and serving the State.

“The Colm his family and friends knew and loved so much became a personal loss for the whole country. A proud Mayo and GAA man; loved and respected in his community and by his colleagues; steadfast in his duties and professional and wholehearted in doing the job he loved as a Garda.

“His murder again reminded us of the risks the brave men and women of An Garda Síochána take every day to protect our communities, and the burden all Garda families carry in supporting them.

“We also remember the 88 other Gardaí who have lost their lives in the line of duty and their families today.

“Detective Garda Horkan exemplified the courage and dedication of An Garda Síochána, and I hope his family, friends and colleagues can take some comfort in justice being done today.

Contains reporting from the Press Association

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