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Family 'devastated' at six year sentence for man who killed taxi driver

Martin Mulligan was stabbed to death by Joseph Hillen on 28 September 2015.

The Criminal Courts in Dublin
The Criminal Courts in Dublin
Image: Shutterstock/Sean Wandzilak

THE FAMILY OF a taxi driver who was stabbed and left to die on a country road has said the justice system failed them after his killer was jailed for six years.

Justice Eileen Creedon sentenced Joseph Hillen (24) at the Central Criminal Court today after a jury last year found him not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter for the killing of 53-year-old Martin Mulligan at Carnmore, Balriggan, Dundalk, Co Louth on 28 September 2015. 

Following sentencing, Mulligan’s family, who previously described his death as “brutal” and “vicious”, wept and comforted one another.

Outside court, Mulligan’s daughter Shauna said: “The Justice system has really failed us. It’s so unfair that you could take somebody’s life and not really pay the price for it.”

His other daughter Sharon said the family is “devastated” and she added that it is “unfair” that Hillen’s account of what happened on the night her father died was taken as “gospel” because her father wasn’t there to give his side.

Mullligan’s wife Grainne said it felt as if her family had been given a life sentence. She described her husband as kind and funny and a “great family man, great father, great husband, great sibling. Everyone loved him.”

‘An altercation’

Creedon said that Hillen, of Glendasha Road, Forkhill, Co Armagh stabbed Mulligan following an altercation in the early hours of the morning in a rural area near Dundalk.

When questioned by gardaí Hillen initially denied all knowledge of Mulligan’s death but ahead of his trial he made a voluntary statement in which he said that he was driving by land owned by his friend in the early hours of the morning when he believed he saw Mulligan illegally dumping rubbish. 

There was an altercation and Hillen said the deceased pulled a knife on him but he managed to “flip it” and while being struck on the top of his head he “jabbed out” twice and inflicted the fatal wounds.

Creedon said she took into account Hillen’s offer to plead guilty ahead of his trial and added that the jury’s decision meant that they accepted that he believed he was acting in self-defence when he stabbed Mulligan but that he used excessive force.

She also took into account his previous history of employment, that he is in a stable relationship, has expressed remorse, has some insight into the harm inflicted on the Mulligan family and has no previous convictions for violence. She noted that he is considered at a moderate risk of re-offending. 

Creedon said Mulligan’s killing was in the upper-mid range of such offences and so she set the headline sentence at ten years. Taking into consideration the mitigating factors she reduced that to seven years and suspended the final year on condition he be of good behaviour, keep the peace and engage with probation services.

‘His greatest assets’

At a sentence hearing in December Mulligan’s youngest daughter Shauna said she had the “privilege and honour of having my dad in my life for 25 years until he was brutally, viciously and inhumanely killed for no fault of his own.”

In five separate impact statements Mulligan was described as the family bond and the kind of person who would light up a room with his good humour, warmth and laughter. Shauna said he was her role model and his happiest times were those spent with his family.

She added: “He supported me in so many ways and motivated me with his kind encouraging words like “you just do your best” or “I am very proud of you Shauna”.

“His death had done ever-lasting damage that can never be described,” she said. The circumstances of his death have left her “vulnerable and afraid to face life without him”.

His eldest daughter Sharon remembered his “kindness and selflessness” and recounted how when their next-door neighbour’s father died Martin took care of their youngest boy Cian, picking him up from school, taking him to football on Sundays and having him over to stay at weekends.

She added: “Cian, who has just turned 18, told me that he was looking forward to having his first legal pint with my Dad.”

Every moment in her life will be tinged with sadness, she said. As the family faces their fourth Christmas without him they feel nothing will ever be the same. “My family and I feel like we have nothing to look forward to any more.”

Sharon added: “My son will never meet the granddad he would have loved. My dad was a huge part of my life and I know he would have played a major role in my son’s.”

Martin met his wife Grainne when they were teenagers and they were about to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary when he died. “We had so many wonderful years together,” she said, “but not enough. Martin was and still is the love of my life.”

She described him as a “talker” who was admired by “so many people”. He had a “wonderful sense of humour. Being funny was one of his greatest assets.” His proudest achievement was his two girls.

Mulligan said she would always be haunted by the way her husband died: “On the side of the road, alone without me or his family around him. I always wonder, did he cry out for me?”

She added: “I always thought we would grow old together, looking after each other and enjoying our grandchildren like my parents and Martin’s parents. The way it should be.”

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Eoin Reynolds

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