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Man (23) jailed for four-and-a-half years at Central Criminal Court for beating his grandfather to death

The court heard that the accused had asked his grandfather if he had sexually abused two people, and after he replied, the accused “snapped”.

The Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin City.
The Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin City.
Image: Leah Farrell

A 23-YEAR-OLD MAN who said he “snapped” and beat his grandfather to death after the pensioner allegedly admitted sexually abusing people has been jailed for four-and-a-half years for manslaughter.

The Cork pensioner was found dead by his wife lying in a pool of his own blood after she returned home from working a night shift, the Central Criminal Court was told yesterday.

The court also heard that despite her efforts to be rehoused, the victim’s wife remains living at the scene of the violent killing. 

In a letter of apology to his family and the deceased’s wife, the defendant wrote: “I do want to apologise to my grandfather. I had no right to be his judge and jury.”

In March, Christopher O’Callaghan, of Woodview, Pinecroft, Grange, Douglas, Co Cork pleaded not guilty to murder, but guilty to the manslaughter of his grandfather Joseph O’Callaghan (aged 66) on 2 July 2018 at Galway’s Close, Galway’s Lane in Douglas, Cork.

Sentencing Christopher O’Callaghan at the Central Criminal Court yesterday, Mr Justice Paul McDermott said he was satisfied that the accused did not set out with the “remotest intention” to kill or cause serious injury to his grandfather but that is what had happened.

He highlighted that the accused had not been entitled to beat up his grandfather for any alleged wrongdoing against two individuals.

‘Little did I know…. I would be walking into a crime scene’

A victim impact statement was read to the court yesterday by Detective Inspector Vincent O’Sullivan on behalf of Joseph O’Callaghan’s wife, Angeline O’Callaghan, who said her husband was “needlessly and selfishly killed”.

“Joe was a friend, a kindhearted man, he was a joker and always made me and everyone around laugh,” she said.

On the night I left for work, I said my goodbyes and told Joe that I would see him in the morning. Little did I know that the following morning I would be walking into a crime scene, where I found Joe lifeless on the floor. There was blood on the wall, bedding and floor.

“For a moment, I thought I was dreaming; broken door, blood on the wall, bedding and floor. I am still emotionally and psychologically scarred to this day.

I am dealing with enormous stress and depression from all the challenges that Joe’s death has left me. The home, I once shared with Joe, remained a crime scene for a very long time, a time during which I had to be put up by friends.

“I tried the council to be rehoused but to no avail, approached TDs and the Tánaiste for assistance but even they were not able to help me and I am expected to carry on with life as normal in a house that was the scene of a violent killing.

“Each time I open my door, I have flashbacks and anxiety attacks. I have spent so much on that house and hired someone to clean up the blood. 

“Life has never been the same, at times I drown my fears with alcohol. I have health issues and I am afraid that I might have a mental breakdown if I don’t get out of that house,” she concluded.

Sentencing

Passing sentence, Mr Justice McDermott noted that Mrs O’Callaghan had been left without her husband and this has a continuing effect on her. She has to live in the house in which she discovered Mr O’Callaghan’s body and responsibility for this lies at the accused’s door, he said.

The judge said that the accused never set out on the morning of the Munster hurling final to kill his grandfather and it was the furthest thing from his mind.

He observed that the accused had consumed a considerable amount of alcohol before knocking on his grandfather’s door and asked him straight away if he had sexually abused the two named individuals.

The grandfather refused to give him an answer at first, but then said he had, said the judge, and the accused “snapped”. The defendant accepted that he had hit him up to four times, kicked him twice and “stomped” on him, he said.

Mr Justice McDermott emphasised that the defendant had told gardaí that he could hear his grandfather breathing when he left the house. The accused “saw red” when his grandfather admitted what he had done and later told his father that he had given the deceased “a good hiding”, he said.

Referring to the defendant, the judge said he told gardaí that if he had realised that he had killed his grandfather he would have gone to him earlier.

“I’m satisfied you did not set out with the remotest intention to kill or cause serious injury to your grandfather but that is what happened,” said the judge, adding that the awful event was fuelled by alcohol.

He pointed out that the accused had not been entitled to beat up the deceased for any alleged wrongdoing against two individuals.

Before delivering the sentence, Mr Justice McDermott said there was no doubt he had “snapped” and lost it when his grandfather admitted what he had done. However, the victim was rendered defenceless by being knocked to the ground beside his bed and the attack continued on the floor, when the victim was not in a position to do anything about it, he said.

The aggravating factors in the case were that he had broken into his grandfather’s house in the early hours of the morning and attacked him, when he was clearly encouraged by others to go home. The victim was in bad health with a heart condition and the accused had gone to his home in an angry state of mind, he said.

Another aspect of the case which caused concern, said the judge, was that the accused disposed of his clothes in the early hours of the morning.

“This was a spontaneous and ill-advised effort to avoid the consequences of your actions rather than to avoid attempts at prosecution for the killing of your grandfather,” he said, adding that the defendant had taken full responsibility for everything else when he learned of the man’s death.

Furthermore, the accused had made no effort to obtain assistance for his grandfather and this may have been because he did not fully appreciate the injuries he had inflicted on the deceased, said the judge.

The judge said the appropriate headline sentence before mitigation was seven and a half years. In mitigation, Mr Justice McDermott noted the accused’s early guilty plea, his decision to go to the Garda station with his uncle, his interviews with gardaí, his sincere remorse and his significant efforts with alcohol abuse.

In summary, the judge said terrible damage had been inflicted on those who loved Joseph O’Callaghan and that could not be undone.

Christopher O’Callaghan was sentenced to six years imprisonment with the final 18 months suspended. The terms of the suspension include that he abstain from alcohol, attend drug and alcohol treatment and continue with his studies and employment.

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About the author:

Alison O'Riordan

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