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Yousef Palani in April 2022 Alamy Stock Photo

Man who pleaded guilty to two Sligo murders jailed for life

The 23-year-old is to serve the mandatory term for the murders of Aidan Moffitt and Michael Snee.

LAST UPDATE | 23 Oct 2023

SERIAL KILLER YOUSEF Palani, who was driven by his hatred of gay men and decapitated one of his victims in his own home, has been jailed for life.

At the Central Criminal Court this afternoon, Ms Justice Mary Ellen Ring sentenced the 23-year-old to the mandatory term for the murders of Aidan Moffitt and Michael Snee.

She also sentenced Palani to a concurrent sentence of 20 years for causing serious harm to a third man, Anthony Burke, by stabbing the victim in his left eye with a kitchen knife.

In passing sentence, Ms Justice Ring said that she was not going to repeat the “unspeakable violence” visited upon the three innocent men in this case. Ms Justice Ring said that she too, shared the concerns of the victims families on what would follow from today’s sentencing and the potential headlines in the newspapers. “This is not about headlines, it is about real people and their families,” she said.

The judge pointed out that the details of the men’s lives should be more important than the details of their deaths.

Ms Justice Ring acknowledged that the men were “cherished and valuable” members of their communities. She said they were complete human beings, where their sexuality was just a part of who they were. She said that they and their families have “nothing to be ashamed of”, adding that “shame is borne in this court by one person alone”.

The judge continued by saying that each of the three men should be proud of what they were to themselves and all who knew them.

Earlier, the judge had asked for a photograph of Mr Moffitt and Mr Snee as she said she needed “to see beyond the destruction and death”.

She went on to say: “The Moffitt family in their statement said that Aidan left memories too good to forget; I hope all the families know this to be true”.

“None of these families will forget April 2022 nor should they but they will remember in time far more that is good than what occurred over the short hours that took them away”.

She wished the friends and relatives of Mr Moffitt and Mr Snee “some peace” into the future.

In the case of Mr Burke, the judge said that he had been given time to build “new good memories”.

She said she had considered the sequence of the events of this charge, noting that it had been followed by the murders of Mr Moffitt on April 9 and Mr Snee the next day. She added: “The loss of one’s eyesight is at the highest end of serious harm and brings incredible challenges and changes to one’s life”.

“These men should be remembered as good family members and friends, not as victims, the details of their lives should be more important and not the details of their death,” she concluded.

The sentences are to date from when Palani went into custody on April 13, 2022.

Earlier today, the court heard that Palani – who had asked his victims if they were “100 percent Irish” – was motivated by his hatred of gay men and told detectives that he would have continued “to kill” if gardai had not stopped him.

The court also heard that while Palani told gardai that his religion forbids homosexuality, investigators were satisfied that he was not radicalised. Palani told gardai in interviews that Muslims could not be homosexual and vehemently denied being gay, despite using gay dating apps.

During today’s sentence hearing, Detective Garda Conor Jordan of Sligo Garda Station agreed with Lorcan Staines SC, prosecuting, that Palani’s motivation to carry out the murders was as a result of his “hostility and prejudice” towards homosexual men.

He said the garda view was that Palani had also “certainly exaggerated” and/or made up claims about his mental health and that a special verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity was not contended for.

Palani, last of Markievicz Heights in Sligo had pleaded guilty to the murder of Aidan Moffitt (42) at Cartron Heights in Sligo on April 10, 2022. He also pleaded guilty to the murder of Michael Snee (58) at City View, Connaughton Road, Sligo, two days later on April 12, 2022.

Palani further pleaded guilty to causing serious harm to Anthony Burke at Cleveragh Road in Sligo on April 9, 2022.

The court heard today that the first murder victim, Aidan Moffitt, had been decapitated in his home, with his head placed on a bed. He had also suffered 42 stab wounds.

Mr Moffitt’s body remained on the floor and gardai noted that his two hands were tied behind his back. A yellow bottle of bleach was left beside his head, while a knife with a serrated blade had been placed into Mr Moffitt’s right hand after he was murdered, Det Gda Jordan said.

Michael Snee was also found tied up on the floor of his own bedroom, while a hunting knife and a black coloured knife had been laid on the bed to make the shape of a cross, the court was told. There were 38 sharp force injuries to Mr Snee’s body and he had been stabbed 25 times mainly to the head, neck and chest, said the garda witness.

A third man, Anthony Burke, survived the attack but lost sight in one eye after being stabbed by the defendant.

In his victim impact statement, Mr Burke said that on the night of the incident he thought he was meeting someone to have “an intimate moment with”. “I didn’t realise I was going to meet a coward and a monster that would destroy my life. My heart goes out to Aidan and Michael’s families for the suffering they have to endure,” he added.

Mr Burke said he has been very distressed since the attack, was in “fierce pain” at the time and had suffered insomnia. He said he experienced heightened anxiety, his mood deteriorated, that he entertained suicidal thoughts and was prescribed antidepressants. He said he was very restricted in how he can now access employment due to his injury and that he can no longer drive buses or trucks and cannot hold a licence for them.

Mr Burke said the incident brought a very significant change in the quality of his life and he feels psychologically vulnerable. “I find it hard to be in large groups, I spent the last 49 years repressing my sexuality until I had no choice; it became public knowledge and I was attacked largely due to my sexuality. This has placed a huge impact and strain on my family and friendships”.

Mr Burke said he has felt so much sadness, guilt and shame since the attack. “The area this happened is local to me and I have to walk there every day. Every time I walk there I see Yousef Palani shoving the knife in my eye. The fear I felt and I remember him watching me to see if I would collapse”.

The Central Criminal Court was also told that all three attacks had been knife crimes, that each victim was living alone and that the sexual orientation of the three victims was homosexual. The court heard that the defendant was “obsessed” with tying his victims up before killing them and that carefully crafted questions were put to each victim in advance of meeting to ensure that they were Irish and living alone.

Whilst Palani told gardai that his religion forbids homosexuality, gardai were satisfied he was not radicalised despite suggestions to the contrary.

The court heard that Palani has no previous convictions.

Michael Bowman SC, for Palani, said he was instructed to offer an apology on behalf of his client who struggled to comprehend and understand the enormity of what he had done. “He recognises the pain, loss and suffering on the deceased and the injured party. He accepts he acted grotesquely and without explanation or justification,” said the lawyer.

Alison O'Riordan