We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

Timothy 'Timmy' Hourihane. Provision Photography
Cork City

Man jailed for life after pleading guilty to manslaughter of homeless man

He kicked and stamped Timmy Hourihane to the point where he was ‘almost unrecognisable’.

A 40-YEAR-OLD man has been jailed for life after kicking and stamping a fellow homeless man to the extent that he was “almost unrecognisable” to family members who identified his body.

Christopher O’Sullivan, who is originally from Co Kerry, had pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Timothy “Timmy” Hourihane on 13 October 2019 at a “tented village” in Mardyke Walk in Cork city.

A Central Criminal Court sitting in Cork heard that Timmy Hourihane suffered severe facial trauma, brain swelling, broken facial bones and battering of teeth in the attack.

O’Sullivan carried out the assault with an accomplice who has already been jailed for eleven years in relation to the assault.

Detective Superintendent Michael Comyns said that the assault on a grass verge was so severe that one of the teeth of the victim was found in his stomach at his postmortem.

Hourihane, who was a gifted chef, died of inhalation of blood and cardiac arrest. The father of one also sustained a collapsed lung and severe facial and head trauma arising out of the unprovoked attack.

The assault on the 53-year-old, who was from Kilcrohane in the Sheep’s Head Peninsula in West Cork, occurred near his tent in the makeshift village.

Members of the public went to the assistance of Timmy Hourihane who had been badly beaten. However, he died a short time later at Cork University Hospital.

O’Sullivan was originally due to stand trial for murder. However, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter last year after he was informed that such a plea was acceptable to the State.

Tented village

Detective Superintendent Michael Comyns told the hearing that Timmy Hourihane, O’Sullivan and his co-accused James Brady were living in the tented village in the Mardyke near UCC in October 2019.

The court heard that the atmosphere was strained among members of the homeless community who were living in close proximity to each other in tents.

Detective Superintendent Comyns said that O’Sullivan had spent the majority of 12 October 2019 drinking. He had turned 37 that day.

Timmy Hourihane left the tented village at 10.58pm and returned alone at 12.22am.

Witnesses who were going to a house in the area reported that Timmy Hourihane was immediately “set upon” by a man later identified as Brady. Brady was finger pointing, shouting and pushing Mr Hourihane.

Detective Superintendent Comyns told the court that O’Sullivan was being held back by his then partner. However, O’Sullivan broke free from the grip of the woman. Timmy Hourihane was subsequently “severely assaulted” by both men.

Detective Superintendent Comyns said that the men starting “kicking and stamping” Timmy Hourihane until he fell to the ground.

He stated that witnesses informed them that O’Sullivan continued to assault Mr Hourihane even after his accomplice had withdrawn. When he finally stopped attacking Mr Hourihane he set fire to the tent that his victim had been sleeping in at night. He threw his top in this fire.

Detective Superintendent Comyns also said that O’Sullivan disposed of his other clothes in a fire at the back of the tented village.

Following the death of Mr Hourihane, the tented village was deemed a crime scene and occupants were accommodated by the Simon Community. Christopher O’Sullivan gave a witness statement to gardai in which he claimed that had been asleep in his tent on the night of the attack and only woke when police arrived at the scene.


Detective Superintendent Comyns told Mr Justice Paul McDermott that the attack only lasted three to five minutes. However, its impact was “devastating.”

O’Sullivan has 48 previous convictions for extremely serious and violent crimes including assault causing serious harm, robbery, burglary, criminal damage, drugs offences and possession of knives.

Detective Superintendent Comyns said a man spent two months in a coma in 2007 and “never really recovered” after being assaulted by O’Sullivan. The father of nine was jailed for six years in relation to this offence.

Detective Superintendent Comyns said that this incident was similar to the assault on Timmy Hourihane.

“Following that assault [in 2007] he [O’Sullivan] asked other people to take the injured party out of the building (where the attack occurred) and to leave him lying on the roadside.”

A victim impact statement from Eliot Hourihane, the only son of Timmy Hourihane, was read in court.

Eliot Hourihane said he couldn’t begin to explain how “angry and sad” the violent passing of his father had made him.

“You don’t get those kinds of injuries my Dad sustained if they weren’t trying to end his life. I pray that the person involved is dealt with severely as he has left a son without a father, a mother without a son and siblings without their brother. As an only child I feel like I need to fight for him [Timmy Hourihane] until the end.

“It won’t bring him back but hopefully with the help of the court we can get some form of justice for him. My family will never be able to move on. But these two people [the persons responsible for the manslaughter of Hourihane] will move on like he was nothing.”

A victim impact statement from the family of the deceased was also read in to the record. Mr Hourihane’s two siblings and his sister in law were present in court. Eliot Hourihane lives overseas.

In their statement the family said that their lives “changed instantly and irrevocably” when Timothy’s head “ was kicked in and he was left for dead” by two violent people in a “unprovoked’ and “brutal attack.”

“With a history of brutal and violent behaviour the defendant knew well what he was doing and what the outcome would be and he still didn’t care. He had the presence of mind to burn his bloody clothes in a nearby fire hoping he’d get away with it, while Timothy lay dying.

“We cannot understand how a human being could do this. For us it is a life sentence.”


Siobhan Lankford, SC for the Prosecution, said that the crime fell in to the “highest category of manslaughter”. 

Roisin Lacey, SC for the defence, said that her client wanted to offer his sincere apology to the family of Mr Hourihane for his role in the death of their loved one.

“He wants to offer the sincerest and deepest apology to the Hourihane family for his participation in and contribution to the death of Mr Hourihane. He has by his plea of guilty accepted his guilt”

Lacey said that O’Sullivan had told a consultant during an assessment that he deserved to be punished for what he did to Mr Hourihane. He said “Timmy ended up dead” and “they [he and Brady] caused it.”

Lacey said that her client had indicated that he was under the influence of a variety of drugs and alcohol when he carried out the beating. These included cocaine, cannabis, Xanax, lager and spirits.

In sentencing Mr Justice Paul McDermott said that O’Sullivan and his accomplice had carried out a “shocking, unrelenting and savage assault on a helpless man who lay prone on the ground”.

He said that Mr O’Sullivan and James Brady had used their shoes and feet as “lethal weapons”.

“He (O’Sullivan) has an awful history of offences against the person. In the 2007 attack the accused inflicted catastrophic injuries on a man.

This (the death of Hourihane) was the worst kind of killing. It ranks as one of those offences just short of murder.”

Mr Justice McDermott said that O’Sullivan had a childhood which made for harrowing reading. However, he has yet to address his “deep rooted issues.”

He said that O’Sullivan had a long history of offending which included “egregious offences against the person”.

Mr Justice McDermott said that a life imprisonment was an “appropriate sentence” for a person who had such a serious track record of offending.

“Unless his issues are addressed he will have a high risk of re offending. This was wanton violence.”

He added that O’Sullivan was the more active participant in the attack on Mr Hourihane and that there was a difference in the age and convictions which meant that the defendant merited a higher sentence than his co accused.

Brady sentencing

Meanwhile, in April of last year James Brady of Shannon Lawn in Mayfield, Cork was jailed for 11 years for the manslaughter of Mr Hourihane.

Following a four-week murder trial, which was heard at a sitting of the Central Criminal Court in Waterford, the jury opted to instead unanimously convict Brady of the manslaughter of Timmy Hourihane who worked for a period for the Hilton Hotel Chain in the UK having trained as chef.

During the course of his employment Mr Hourihane served both Elton John and Lionel Richie. When asked about the background of the deceased Dept Supt Comyns said that Hourihane was a “well-known chef”.

Mr Hourihane gave an interview to the Irish Times on Christmas day in 2017 when he was in eating his Christmas meal at the Penny Dinners soup kitchen in Cork city.

Timmy said he had a feeling of immense gratitude for the blessings of the day. He spoke of his delight in simple pleasures such as going to mass. He said it was important to try and acquire a black sense of humour whilst living on the streets.

He mentioned his sadness at the death of homeless woman Kathleen O’Sullivan (43) who had passed away on the streets of Cork just weeks earlier.

“Homelessness is out of control. I knew Kathleen O’Sullivan. She had a good heart for me.

“When you sleep on the streets you are lucky to wake up with your trainers still on. It has happened to me where I have woken up with one trainer missing. You have to laugh cos you think why didn’t they take the two?”

Timmy Hourihane said that he had been given the opportunity to attend rehab on a few occasions and generally did well for a period before relapsing. He added that he had always received support from his loved ones and friends but that he found himself unable to conquer his addiction to alcohol.

Mr Hourihane also spoke the Neil Prendeville show on Cork’s Red FM in the winter of 2018. Timmy told the radio station that he he had been assaulted a number of times on the streets.

“I have been attacked three times. The last attack happened two weeks ago. I didn’t have a cent in my pocket and they probably thought I had something. (At night) I feel cold and not safe.”

It is really cold. We are a city on stone basically. We might have a duvet or a few blankets. You wake up at four and you are hypothermic and shaking with the cold. My day involves wandering around the whole city thinking ‘where will I sleep tonight? It is going to be safe?’ In most places in Cork it is not safe.”

Olivia Kelleher