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Victim's family hit out at mental health services after neighbour found not guilty by reason of insanity

Jimmy ‘James’ Loughlin was beaten to death by neighbour Richard McLaughlin in February 2018.

Image: Shutterstock/Sean Wandzilak

THE FAMILY OF a man beaten to death by a neighbour who was undergoing a psychotic episode have told the Central Criminal Court that it is “unacceptable” that someone so dangerous and known to mental health services was living just a few doors from their “defenceless” son.

It emerged during the trial that a psychiatrist previously had concerns that the man responsible for the killing was at risk of murdering someone due to his delusional beliefs.

Following a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity for Sligo man Richard McLaughlin, the deceased’s parents Paula and Micheal said their son Jimmy had never had any contact with Mr McLaughlin before he “broke through Jimmy’s front door and attacked him violently with a crow bar.”

In a statement read to the court on their behalf they said: “To discover that someone so dangerous was living just a few doors down the road and known to mental health services in Sligo is totally unacceptable.”

‘Light of our life’ 

Mr McLaughlin (32), with an address at The Laurels, Woodtown Lodge, Sligo was today found not guilty by reason of insanity of the murder of Jimmy ‘James’ Loughlin (20) at Connolly Street in Sligo on 24 February 2018.

The court heard that Mr McLaughlin broke down the door of Mr Loughlin’s home at 1.18pm and beat him to death with a crowbar while suffering from delusions brought on by paranoid schizophrenia.

Pathologist Dr Linda Mulligan said the deceased died from traumatic head injuries sustained during an assault.

During the trial the court also heard from two psychiatrists called by the prosecution and defence who agreed that Mr McLaughlin’s mental illness meant he did not know that what he was doing was wrong and he was unable to prevent himself from killing Mr Loughlin. 

In their statement Mr Loughlin’s parents said their son was born in January 1998 and the family moved to Sligo in 2002.

They said: “Jimmy was the light of our life. He was so funny and always lived his life to the full, never looking further than the day ahead. We never thought that Jimmy’s hopes, plans and future were soon to be taken away from him shortly after he had turned 20 years of age.”

When they heard their son had died Paula and Michael had the “terrible ordeal” of breaking the news to their daughters Grace, Rose and Kitty.

They added: “Nothing can ever prepare you for the news that your only son has died. It became known to us shortly after Jimmy’s death that a man called Richard McLaughlin carried out this barbaric and horrific murder. Mr McLaughlin broke through Jimmy’s front door and attacked him violently with a crow bar. Defenceless and vulnerable to such an assault Jimmy was killed instantly.”

Jimmy was due to start a new job the following Monday and was looking forward to his first holiday with his girlfriend to Poland. “Tragically, we had the terrible task of burying our poor Jim on the day he was due to go away,” the family said.

They continued: “Jimmy’s death has left a huge void in our lives that can never by healed. Our three lovely daughters now have to live their lives without their adored brother. His grandparents are left without a cherished grandson. Aunts, uncles and cousins are now without their funny and loving Jimmy. His many friends are now lost without their childhood friend.” 

‘More questions’ 

Outside court family spokesman John O’Keefe said: “The family do believe there are questions to be answered with regard to the mental health services. They hope that at the coroner’s inquest in October of this year those questions will be answered.”

Brendan Grehan SC, on behalf of Mr McLaughlin, told the court his client’s mother Mairead wished to express her “deepest sorrow” to the Loughlin family for the death of their “entirely innocent son”.

Justice Carmel Stewart said the Loughlin family’s grief was “palpable” during the trial and “words are of little use”. She noted the “sheer random nature of what occurred” and said she hopes their strength as a family will sustain them and that they will ultimately retain the happy memories they have of their child. She also extended sympathy to Ms McLaughlin who, she said, had also lost her son.

Justice Stewart then directed Dr Sally Lenihan at the Central Mental Hospital to draw up a report for the court regarding ongoing treatment for Mr McLaughlin which the court will hear on 16 July. 

About the author:

Eoin Reynolds & Alison O'Riordan

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