A 33-year-old Limerick man has been sentenced to life in prison for murdering a father-of-two by slitting his throat as he sat in his living room in an attack with no known motive.
Gerard Manning of Upper Gerald Griffin Street in the city, but originally from Belturbet, Cavan, had pleaded not guilty to murdering Martin Purcell between September 28 and 30, 2011.
He denied knowing Mr Purcell or ever having been in the 54-year-old’s home. However, his fingerprints were found in his victim’s blood at the murder scene, Mr Purcell’s apartment on Wickham Street, Limerick.
The Central Criminal Court trial heard that Mr Purcell’s landlord found him dead in his home on September 30 that year, after it had been noticed that he hadn’t collected his post.
His trousers had been pulled down and he had 41 wounds, which fractured numerous bones and injured his heart, lungs and several other organs.
The cut-throat injury to his throat severed his jugular vein, and post-mortem findings showed that he received this wound first, from behind, while sitting in a chair.
Manning’s left thumb print was found in Mr Purcell’s blood, both on that chair and on the hot tap in the kitchen. Two of his fingerprints were also found on a CD case under a coffee table at the scene.
A stereo belonging to the deceased was later found in Manning’s flat, while keys to Mr Purcell’s home were found in waste ground next to where the defendant lived.
In his garda interviews, Manning said he had never known the deceased and had never been in his home. He said he had found the stereo on the street.
Manning was also captured on CCTV out and about in Limerick at times when he said he was home.
The prosecution said that all of this was powerful and compelling evidence of Manning’s involvement in Mr Purcell’s murder.
In her closing speech, Úna Ni Raifeartaigh SC, prosecuting, noted that his only explanation for his bloodied fingerprints being at the scene was that it was a ‘stitch up’.
“You put it altogether. There can be no doubt that Gerard Manning murdered Martin Purcell,” she said.
“Sadly we don’t know why this killing took place,” she said. “But you can be sure of the two things you need to be sure of: this was murder and Mr Manning did it.”
The jury of seven men and five women reached a majority verdict of 11 to one today, after almost five hours deliberating.
Detective Garda Vincent Brick testified afterwards that Manning had 115 previous convictions including for firearms offences, possession of knives, domestic violence, endangerment and burglary.
However, the detective confirmed that Manning had never served longer than 10 months in prison.
He said he was on bail for a number of offences when he carried out this murder and had, just weeks earlier, led Gardaí across the city on a high-speed chase, which included a collision.
He said Manning had never been in employment, moving around the town drinking and using drugs.
“We have no motive,” he said. “To this day, we don’t know why Mr Purcell was targeted. He had never come to the attention of Gardaí. He was a simple man, who led a simple life.”
Mr Purcell’s daughter, Amy Purcell, spoke in court on behalf of her brother and the victim’s siblings, Susan, Angela and Barry. Their other brother, Leonard, died three months before Mr Purcell was killed.
Ms Purcell said her father was a gentle, loving creature, who would cross the road to avoid trouble. He was happy and content, she said.
The trial had heard that Mr Purcell loved Irish music and spent a lot of time listening to CDs in his home.
“We’ll always have music,” said Ms Purcell, as she thanked the jury and her aunts and uncle, who had attended the trial with her.
Mr Justice Paul Carney then imposed the mandatory life sentence on Manning and thanked the jurors, exempting them from further jury service for life.