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Dublin: 12°C Monday 4 July 2022

Man given life sentence for the murder of two elderly brothers in Mayo

The jury deliberated for 1 hour and 42 minutes on the verdict.

Image: PA Archive/PA Images

A 30-YEAR-OLD MAYO man has been sentenced to life in prison for the double murder of two elderly brothers with special needs in their Mayo home. He had bludgeoned them with a shovel and one of their walking sticks.

Alan Cawley of Four Winds, Corrinbla, Ballina, Co Mayo had admitted killing Thomas Blaine (69) and John (Jack) Blaine (76).

However, he had pleaded not guilty to murdering them on 10 July 2013 at New Antrim Street in Castlebar. He had argued that he had three mental disorders that had diminished his responsibility and was therefore entitled to a manslaughter verdict.

His Central Criminal Court trial heard that Tom Blaine had schizophrenia and his brother had dementia, a tremor and a severe hunch in his back, having been involved in a serious accident on a building site years earlier.

Both brothers also had speech impediments. They were under the care of the HSE, and a home help called to them three times a day.

The court heard that Alan Cawley had been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and other disorders as a child. He had also been diagnosed with two personality disorders as an adult, was often on heavy medication, had developed a dependence on alcohol and prescription drugs and was in and out of both hospital and prison.

The timeline of the killing

Criminal Courts of Justice The Courts of Criminal Justice Source: PA Archive/PA Images

He was released from Castlerea prison four days before the killings and was provided with B&B accommodation in Castlebar. He bought a bottle of wine around 5pm on 9 July and was seen drinking three pints of Guinness in pubs later that evening.

 Witnesses described him as behaving ‘crazy’, with him telling some pub customers that he was a junior doctor who would be carrying out the autopsies on any bodies found that night. He also threatened to have one man ‘committed’ with the help of gardai, warning the man’s wife that she was in danger otherwise.

CCTV footage then captured him walking through the town and crossing paths with Jack Blaine around midnight. Jack Blaine had crossed the road to Rocky’s Bar with his empty tea mug in his hand. As was the norm, the barman then made him a cup of tea and carried it across the street, leaving it on his windowsill.

The barman noticed a young man interacting with Jack Blaine as he returned to his house. He thought he was helping him across the street.

The young man was Alan Cawley and CCTV captured him entering the Blaine house, with Jack Blaine following behind him.

Cawley told gardai that he had spent about 20 minutes upstairs searching for prescription drugs. He said he found nothing and that ‘the man’ was still downstairs when he came back down.

He claimed that this man, who the court heard was incontinent, was rubbing his genitals; Cawley claimed that he thought that the deceased was trying to make a sexual advance on him.

Cawley, who said the jury was out on his own sexuality, said he was sick of men and wanted to show the deceased that men couldn’t always get what they wanted. He said he picked up a shovel and beat him with it.

Criminal Courts of Justice Source: PA Archive/PA Images

He said he then made his way to the front door, but saw another man in bed in a room at the front of the house. He said he thought that, as they were living together, ‘maybe’ they were child molesters. He decided to beat that man too and hit him with a stick about 25 times.

He said he then thought that pouring boiling water over the first man’s genitals would be a ‘fitting punishment’. So he turned on the kettle, waited for it to boil and poured the contents over his victim.

He left the house just over an hour after entering, putting on sunglasses before he walked back to his B&B.

How the brothers were found

The Blaine brothers’ home help arrived at their house at 7.15am. Describing them as ‘two absolute gentlemen’, she said she got no response when she called out in her usual way: ‘Are you ready to rock and roll?’.

She entered Tom Blaine’s bedroom and found him lying in a pool of blood on the floor, with his legs still on the bed.

She ran out of the house screaming and raised the alarm before going back inside to look for Jack Blaine. She eventually found him lying covered in blood in the back doorway, half inside the house and half outside.

Forensic experts noted that there was blood on the ceiling and all four walls of Tom Blaine’s bedroom. He had been attacked while he was in his bed.

The blood patterns found in the backyard indicated that Jack Blaine had been assaulted while lying on the ground.

Jack Blaine’s blood was found on both a rusty shovel and its broken handle, as well as on his walking stick, all of which were near his body. His brother’s blood was also found on the shovel’s broken handle.

A post-mortem exam found that there had been ‘overkill’ in the attack.

 Cawley’s legal team raised the partial defence of diminished responsibility, which can reduce murder to manslaughter.

1 hour and 42 minutes of deliberation

Mr Justice Paul Coffey explained to the jury that, for that to happen, there had to be evidence that the accused was suffering from a mental disorder at the time of the killing and that such a disorder must have substantially diminished his responsibility for his acts.

He noted that the defence’s psychiatrist had said that Cawley had three mental disorders when he killed the Blaines, all of which he said caused him to be more impulsive.

The doctor testified that these were ADHD, Antisocial Personality Disorder and Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder.

The prosecution called a forensic psychiatrist in rebuttal. Her opinion was that he was not suffering from ADHD at the time. She accepted that he had the two personality disorders, but her opinion was that they did not constitute mental disorders within the meaning of the law as they did not impair capacity.

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Justice Coffey informed the jurors that the relevant Act said nothing about capacity, and that they were ‘at large’ in deciding if they were mental disorders within the meaning of that Act.

He told them that if they were satisfied of the defence on the balance of probabilities, they must return a verdict of not guilty of murder, but guilty of manslaughter. He explained that, if not satisfied, they should find the accused guilty.

The four women and eight men were not satisfied and, following an hour and 42 minutes spent deliberating, they reached a unanimous verdict of guilty on both counts.

Victim impact statement

Criminal Courts of Justice opening Dublin Source: PA Archive/PA Images

The jurors remained in the jury box while the deceased men’s first cousin delivered a victim impact statement.

Paul Dunne said that both men had kept to themselves, looked after each other and seemed happy and safe in Castlebar. He described them as ‘two honest gentlemen’, who had worked hard in both Ireland and England.

He explained that both brothers were working in England when Jack Blaine had a serious accident on a building site in the late 1960s. They had returned home to look after their mother as soon as he recovered.

He said that Jack Blaine had a speech impediment and was partially blind, but neither ever wanted a fuss. “Everything was alright,” he said of their attitude.

He said that neither was a drinker, but that both were religious, and that the people of Castlebar used to keep an eye out for them.

He spoke about how much they were missed. “The notepad I used to communicate with my cousins instead of shouting in their ears is no longer useful,” he said.

Not seeing Tommy sitting in his chair smiling is a terrible loss.

He said they had not bothered with television or any luxuries, but enjoyed the simple things in life and would drink tea by the ‘barrelful’.

“Two simple men, two angels,” he commented. “May they rest in peace.”

Justice Coffey then asked their murderer to stand.

“The law demands a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment, which I impose,” he said.

The killings were as wanton as they were savage and I can only express my sympathy to the family of Jack and Tommy Blaine.

Cawley was then led away to begin his life sentence.

Read more on the coverage of this trial > 

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Natasha Reid

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