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Wednesday 16 August 2017

Shock novel based on Anabel's tragic death

Families 'appalled' at similarities to brutal assault on Brian Murphy

Niamh Horan

Niamh Horan

THE families involved in the Brian Murphy case are said to be "horrified" over a novel based on the tragic death of the young man outside a hotel nightclub eight years ago.

The book, Bad Day in Blackrock, describes a group of "Brookfield boys" from South Dublin who kick a young man to death outside a Dublin nightclub on a late August night.

The story bears striking similarities to the manslaughter of Brian Murphy, 18, the young man who died following a "vicious and sustained'' assault outside Club Anabel in the Burlington Hotel in Dublin on August 31, 2000.

Dermot Laide, Desmond Ryan and Sean Mackey, all former pupils of one of the country's most prestigious schools, stood trial for violent disorder and manslaughter just months after leaving the exclusive Blackrock College.

Laide was convicted of manslaughter and violent disorder, but the conviction for manslaughter was overturned on appeal and a retrial ordered. However, the State entered a nolle prosequi. Laide served 19 months of a two-year sentence for violent disorder.

Desmond Ryan was sentenced to nine months for violent disorder, but the sentence was deferred to allow him to finish his exams. In fact, he served no time as his conviction was quashed on appeal.

Sean Mackey was sentenced to two years for violent disorder, and served 18 months.

The novel -- written by author Kevin Power, a former University College Dublin student who attended UCD at the same time as a number of the men on trial for the killing -- climaxes in the brutal death of its main character, "Conor Harris".

The author describes in graphic detail how the group of six to 10 "Brookfield boys" set upon the helpless victim in a "drunken fight" and "waited for the sound of yielding flesh".

Power writes: "They punched his belly and his ribs for a while, until they got bored of that and moved on to his face. Someone got him in the kidneys -- both sides. (One of the killers) worked at tripping him, hacking away at his legs."

Another passage reads: "(One of the boys) dug his fist into Conor's sternum, then pulled his arm back and landed a punch so heavy it caused his knuckles to ache for days."

In an uncanny parallel to one of the aspects of the Brian Murphy trial, the author writes: "One witness remembered seeing a young man rush into the melee at this point and deliver a swinging kick to Conor's chest. Then he ran away. The young man has never been identified."

During the real trial, one of the defendants, Sean Mackey, admitted to having run into the middle of the group that was kicking Murphy on the ground, delivered one flying kick to the side of his body, and run back out again.

In a clear reference to schools rugby, the author also describes how one of the killers "took the first running kick as though aiming for the conversion in a senior cup final".

The fight ends with the victim rendered unconscious and one of the killers boasting, "We f**king showed that little c**t".

The victim's father, Denis Murphy, has been given a copy of the novel in the run-up to its release later this month, while a former Blackrock College student who is a close friend of the families involved has said all of those caught up in the tragedy are astonished at its publication.

"They're horrified and appalled to think that someone would drag up the case again just as the media interest was beginning to die down. They think it's a despicable act and fail to understand why anyone would want to bring all this back up again just when everyone is trying to pick up the pieces of their lives, most of all the Murphy family.

"There is no consideration whatsoever for those involved. It's completely insensitive and I wonder who in their right mind would want to read this. It's just a rehash of everything that has already appeared in the newspapers."

Author Kevin Power, who maintains he did not research the Brian Murphy case while writing the book, said he hoped the families would not take offence.

"I would hope they won't react badly. If you find something in a society that people aren't talking about, in a sense that is what fiction is for. Talking about the things that people are reluctant to talk about or that only get talked about in a very crude way. I think that's what fiction does -- it's not a question of trampling all over sensitivities, that's absolutely not my project here at all. So I would hope that no-one draws offence from anything I've done."

Speaking about the brutal fight scene in the book, Power said: "The idea of the sensitivity -- I went through all that before I wrote the scene. You sort of say to yourself, 'This is going to be difficult to write,' (but) in respecting your own sensitivities, you hope that that will therefore provide a reliable guide to the sensitivities of other people."

Meanwhile, Anthony Farrell, head of Lilliput Press, the book's publishing company, has said he is aware that the book's release will be difficult for the families involved.

"I haven't talked to any of the families. The victim's father requested a copy of the book, which we sent out of courtesy as he needed to be cushioned. We don't know how he has responded. A friend of his came by and we gave him the book last week," he said.

"Obviously it probably won't be comfortable for them when the issues are raised again, but the novel isn't mapped on to them, it's mapped on to their world, not on to them as individuals. The author hasn't researched their lives and put them into the novel, but the incident gave rise to the novel, yes."

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