Monday 26 September 2016

Evil siblings tortured and killed 'soft touch' victim

Brother is finally convicted of murder of man who was 'like a father'

Alison O'Riordan

Published 29/05/2016 | 02:30

Murderers: Kenneth (pictured) and Sabrina Cummins took time out from torture to have a beer Photo: Paddy Cummins/PCPhoto.ie
Murderers: Kenneth (pictured) and Sabrina Cummins took time out from torture to have a beer Photo: Paddy Cummins/PCPhoto.ie
Sabrina Cummins Photo: Paddy Cummins/PCPhoto.ie

Ten years ago, the Central Criminal Court jailed two sisters for killing and dismembering their mother's lover.

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Linda and Charlotte Mulhall, dubbed the 'Scissor Sisters', went to prison in 2006 for brutally cutting up Farah Swaleh Noor, a Kenyan immigrant.

Last week, a line was drawn under yet another horrifying and ghastly crime carried out by siblings.

While it attracted a lot less media scrutiny, it wasn't far off the grim and grotesque nature of the Mulhall sisters' butchering.

Sister and brother Sabrina and Kenneth Cummins had pleaded not guilty to murdering Thomas Horan, who had "the life strangled and squeezed out of him" at Cambridge Court, Ringsend, on January 6, 2014.

The siblings, who grew up in Celbridge, Co Kildare, went on trial in October 2015, but four weeks into the trial on November 11, during the judge's charge to the jury, Kenneth Cummins changed his plea to guilty.

Sabrina Cummins, 37, was subsequently found guilty by the jury and handed a life sentence on November 20 last year for the murder of the 63-year-old mentally challenged man, by which time her brother was applying to vacate his guilty plea.

However, last Wednesday the loved ones of Thomas Horan, described as a "soft touch" and whose downfall was that he was too "loyal, trusting and innocent", finally got justice.

It was justice delayed.

Last month, Mr Justice Tony Hunt refused Kenneth Cummins's application to vacate his guilty plea and last Wednesday, more than six months after his sister had been sentenced, Kenneth Cummins was given the mandatory life sentence.

A man of simple needs, Thomas Horan did some work for the Marist Fathers in Milltown, but he never needed much money to survive.

In the end, he was subjected to a "protracted torturing and killing" by his attackers in an attempt to cover up a petty robbery.

This senseless murder appears to be the first occasion in Ireland that a brother and sister are serving life sentences for the same murder.

After being severely beaten, Mr Horan was strangled with a brown leather belt placed around his neck, suffocated with a plastic bag placed over his head and an attempt was made to poison him with cleaning fluids.

Post mortem evidence given by Chief State Pathologist Professor Marie Cassidy indicated that the deceased, who never drank or smoked and had the mental capacity of a 12-year-old, died as a result of asphyxia.

The trial judge put it most succinctly when he said that Mr Horan's "great tragedy" was the day he came across Sabrina Cummins and had his "infirmities preyed upon" by these two opportunistic murderers in his bedsit.

The most unsettling thing about the case was that Sabrina described Thomas Horan as being "like a father" to her; he even threw her a 21st birthday party in Russell's pub in Ranelagh.

Sabrina unashamedly shifted the blame to her brother Kenneth for Mr Horan's death, calling her sibling "very evil at times".

Referred to in court as a "brazen, hard-nosed liar", Sabrina painted herself as an innocent bystander, even though it was abundantly clear that the murder was a "joint enterprise."

Taking the stand, Sabrina Cummins gave evidence of her difficult childhood, with a chronic alcoholic as a father. He beat her mother and constantly rifled the children's piggy banks to pay for his addiction.

She appealed to the sympathy of the jury as she described her role as a "mammy figure" to her seven younger siblings, as well as referring to the time she spent in foster homes.

The dark-haired woman said she would often have to beg in the town or steal from a shop to feed her five sisters and three brothers.

She told the court how later, in a four-year relationship with an Albanian man, she was kicked when she was pregnant and nearly died.

"You have to imagine what effect that would have had on the psychological make-up of Sabrina," said her defence counsel, Blaise O'Carroll SC, in his closing speech.

However, no amount of attempts to tug on the jury's heartstrings was going to take away from the fact that Thomas Horan, described as "kindness personified", had a plastic bag held over his face by his two attackers on the night, as he grappled for his last breath of air with his arms swinging.

Hearing how the two assailants took time out of their assault to have a beer, before leaving their prey hunched over in a foetal position with a coat placed on top of him, made it all the more harrowing.

In garda interviews, Kenneth Cummins tried to justify what he had done by alleging that Sabrina Cummins told him that the deceased man had sexually abused her and their sister Breda Cummins. This was entirely untrue, as no such abuse ever took place.

Sadly Breda, their eldest sister, was murdered in Athy in 2010. Her ex-partner, Michael McDonald, stabbed her six times in the chest with a kitchen knife.

The Cummins family had previously lost another sister, Hazel, in 2002. She died as a result of a heart attack, while another brother suffered brain damage following a violent assault when he was attacked by five people at a party.

In a victim impact statement read to the court, it was said that Margaret or 'Marge' Muldoon married 'Tommy' Horan in 1977. They had a child, who was put up for adoption due to their individual incapacities.

The couple separated in 2000 but this was never formalised. Despite living in separate houses, Thomas was still devoted to his wife and would walk up to visit her in her house every day in the years leading up to his death.

Marge would tell her husband, who was not street-wise, not to answer the door after a particular time at night. She maintains to this day that she would not be in a nursing home if Thomas was still alive, because he would not have allowed her to go there and would have looked after her.

A very telling fact highlighted in the victim impact statement is that Thomas Horan "was afraid" of Sabrina.

As if taken by sheer surprise upon hearing the verdict last November, Sabrina stormed out of the courtroom like a bolt of lightning, bursting into tears in her holding cell, all too aware that she would soon be incarcerated alongside the notorious Scissor Sisters in the women's prison in Mountjoy.

Sunday Independent

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