Dad murdered in Phoenix Park had €500,000 wealth but chose to live on streets
Published 21/05/2015 | 02:30
Some day the daughter of a homeless man murdered in the Phoenix Park before being set alight will have to learn about the unusual and tragic details of what a judge described as a "heinous crime".
Gerard Donnelly was remembered in court yesterday as a hard worker who was kind and honest, but gardaí still struggle to understand how his life was so cruelly ended by Ciaran Moran.
The 37-year-old suffered from dysmorphia which went untreated, with the result that he opted to be a loner and live rough despite being worth over €500,000.
Mr Donnelly first came to garda notice when he was stopped and searched by officers who found him carrying €8,500 in cash, which they suspected was stolen.
However, the money was not seized because the former truck driver produced a bank book which proved that the cash was from a legitimate source.
Gardaí were so mystified by his lifestyle choice that they recorded the incident on their internal PULSE system.
Some time later, Mr Donnelly was again stopped by gardaí in the company of Ciaran Moran and a German couple, all of whom were living rough.
The encounter was also recorded on the garda computer system.
Gardaí found Mr Donnelly's body on fire in a sleeping bag in a wooded area of the Phoenix Park shortly before 1am on November 29, 2013. The remains were lying at the base of a tree with a blow torch near his groin.
The father of one died as a result of severe head injuries inflicted by Moran, who attacked him with a lump hammer after discovering that he was carrying cash. Moran also used a pincer tool to amputate his victim's left little toe and then photographed it with his phone. He poured white spirits over the body and set it alight with a blow torch.
Officers soon found their suspect when they read a report of Moran being stopped in the company of his victim and a German couple.
Moran, who lived at Camden Hall homeless hostel, Camden Street, Dublin, had pleaded not guilty to murder.
However, he changed his plea to guilty on day nine of his trial last week, after the judge ruled that the jury should hear a descriptive confession he had made while in garda custody.
A month before the murder, Moran had killed another friend during a drunken row in Cork. In February, he was sentenced to seven years, with two suspended, when he pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Keith Flanagan (37).
Originally from Tallaght, Mr Donnelly was an only child. His father died when Mr Donnelly was a teenager and when his mother had to be cared for in a hospital, he sold the family home in the Tree Park Drive estate in Tallaght for €336,000.
He then moved to live in the UK and had a long-term relationship with the mother of his daughter, who was nine at the time of his murder.
Mr Donnelly returned to Ireland in 2011 and began living rough.
In 2012, he bought two houses in Lucan, Co Dublin, for €180,000 each.
Detective Sergeant Tom Lynch told the sentencing hearing yesterday that Mr Donnelly "had substantial savings and was the owner of two houses".
He said the mother of his child had provided a victim impact statement, in which she said that her daughter now had only her memories and photographs of her father, and would miss out on having him around for birthdays, Christmases and even her wedding day.
She said she would also find out one day how her father had been taken away in such a cruel and unjust way.
Det Sgt Lynch told the court that Moran had 23 previous convictions.
Ms Justice Margaret Heneghan said the details of the crime were very upsetting and noted that the victim's daughter would probably come to know the details of the "heinous crime".
Moran stood while she imposed the mandatory life sentence on him.