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Monday 24 July 2017

Brother tells of despair as mechanic's killer is jailed

Conor Duffy at the Central Criminal Court, Dublin. He was jailed for the manslaughter of Aidan O'Kane. Photo: Courtpix
Conor Duffy at the Central Criminal Court, Dublin. He was jailed for the manslaughter of Aidan O'Kane. Photo: Courtpix

Dearbhail McDonald, Lonan Paul and Fergus Black

THE brother of a mechanic shot dead by a teenage neighbour has told of his despair at the "needless violence" claiming innocent lives.

Barry O'Kane, a brother of 50-year-old mechanic and father-of-one Aidan O'Kane, was speaking after Conor Duffy was sentenced to seven years for manslaughter.

Duffy (18), who was just 16 when he shot dead Mr O'Kane in a laneway in East Wall, Dublin, in December 2008, would have received a 12-year jail term for the killing. But he was ordered to serve seven years after Mr Justice Gareth Sheehan took into consideration a range of mitigating factors, including his age, co-operation with gardai and an early plea of manslaughter.

Speaking after the sentence hearing, Mr O'Kane said his brother's killing "should never have happened".

"Too many people are suffering from needless violence," said Mr O'Kane. He said that his brother, despite a campaign of harassment prior to his death, was "a happy man".

Mr O'Kane said he asked himself how his brother would be dealing with the situation if he was still alive. "I believe he would be cheering us up . . . he might just say: 'Don't worry, be happy'."

Duffy, of St Mary's Road in East Wall, stood with his hands in his pockets at the High Court as Mr Justice Sheehan handed down the seven-year term.

He had denied murdering Mr O'Kane and admitted manslaughter but the plea was rejected by the DPP and the teenager was tried for murder last month. A jury acquitted him of murder but found him guilty of manslaughter by majority verdict.

The shooting happened after Mr O'Kane had chased Duffy into the lane, after he and other teenagers threw eggs at his house and taunted him as he cleaned up the mess.

That incident on the evening of December 7, 2008 proved to be the fatal tipping point after Mr O'Kane had been harassed by teenagers "for months on end".

Confront

Mr O'Kane donned a balaclava, armed himself with a retractable baton and went out on the street to confront those responsible. It was in a laneway not far from his home that he was to have his fatal confrontation with his killer.

Duffy later told gardai he thought Mr O'Kane had a gun and that his own life was in danger, that he had retrieved a gun he had discovered earlier in undergrowth, and that he only wanted to shoot Mr O'Kane in the leg.

The teenager pointed the handgun at his neighbour and fired. He then fled the scene, as Mr O'Kane fell fatally injured to the ground. The bullet had pierced his heart and lungs and he died shortly afterwards.

Duffy had been on friendly terms with his neighbour prior to the shooting, and he and other youths had been in his house to smoke cannabis.

Mr O'Kane had befriended many local youths and would fix bikes and motorbikes for them. They fell out when Mr O'Kane suspected the teen of stealing his bike, and threatened to put him in a wheelchair.

Mr Justice Sheehan said he believed the appropriate sentence for the crime was 12 years, as he regarded the manslaughter to be on the upper end of the scale.

He said, however, there were strong mitigating factors he had to take into consideration, including the fact that Duffy was just 16 at the time of the shooting and had learning difficulties.

Irish Independent

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