Man gets life for murdering neighbour in front of children
Published 22/07/2011 | 05:00
A MAN was last night beginning a life sentence for murdering his next-door neighbour with an ornamental dagger in front of the victim's children.
Richard Higgins (42) of No 1 New Houses, Lattin, Co Tipperary, had pleaded not guilty to the murder of Sean Murphy (29) on January 17, 2010.
But in the third week of the trial at the Central Criminal Court in Limerick and following almost six hours of deliberations, the jury found Higgins -- originally from Lenihan Avenue, Ballinacurra-Weston, Limerick -- guilty of the murder of the young father.
As his two young daughters and son looked on screaming from inside the family home, Sean Murphy died after being stabbed through the left side of his chest by Higgins.
The incident occurred three months after relations between the two neighbours had started to deteriorate.
In October 2009, Emma Butler -- a partner of Higgins -- called to Sean Murphy's home and made a complaint that his children had behaved inappropriately. On the same evening, Higgins went to the Murphy home, wielding an axe, and made threats.
On the day of the murder, the deceased man had been watching a match in a pub in Tipperary town. He was taken home that evening by his partner, Paula Hasset.
Driving towards their home, they passed the local pub in Lattin, where Higgins was standing outside. He made a two-fingered gesture at the couple.
Higgins walked into the estate as Mr Murphy and Ms Hasset got their children out of their car and shouted at his neighbour: "Come on now, you c**t. I'll f**king kill you."
The two men were pulling at each other's tops while Ms Hasset was trying to get their children inside.
Murphy backed away to another neighbouring house, with Higgins following him.
Higgins stabbed the victim with an ornamental dagger. As Ms Hasset rushed to her partner's aid, the dying man told her: "He's after stabbing me."
Higgins said: "I told you I would get you, you c**t" and walked back to his own house.
Despite the efforts of emergency services and neighbours, Sean Murphy died that evening.
His father, also Sean, gave a victim-impact statement following yesterday's verdict.
He told how his granddaughter asked could she go to heaven for her birthday a month after her dad's murder.
Mr Murphy also asked that all who knew his late son "bear no malice" to his murderer.
Judge Patrick McCarthy imposed the mandatory life sentence. Higgins was also found guilty, by a majority verdict, on two counts of threatening to kill or cause serious harm to the deceased man and his partner, Paula Hassett.
Sentencing for these offences was adjourned to a later date.