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Tuesday 16 October 2018

He shot right over my head and I got really scared – jury in farmer murder trial hears

(stock photo)
(stock photo)

Anne Lucey

A crow banger used by deceased tillage farmer Anthony O’ Mahony would go off every four minutes and 26 seconds at key tillage periods to frighten off crows and pigeons, and was so loud some neighbours wore ear protectors, the trial of a 63-year-old dairy farmer for the murder of a 73-year-old tillage farmer, has been told.

Michael Ferris, of Rattoo, Ballyduff, Co Kerry, aged 63, has pleaded not guilty at the Central Criminal Court in Tralee to the murder of John Anthony O’Mahony aged 73, at Rattoo on April 4, 2017.

Prosecution witness Mairead Walsh who lives on the lane to Rattoo Round Tower, and to whose home Michael Ferris went on the morning of April 4 saying “Mahony was gone” asking her to call the gardai, described Mr  Ferris as “lovely, a great neighbour”.

They would meet most days on the lane and stop and chat and he would always arrive with something, with eggs or vegetables and if she were baking she’d drop scones and stuff up to the Ferris’ house, she told Patrick McGrath SC for the prosecution.

She thought there was some dispute “years before” she came to Rattoo she said of the relationship between Mr Ferris and the deceased.

Everyone got along, but around five years ago the deceased, Anthony O’Mahony got “more peculiar”, she  said.

When he brought the banger closer to their house, it was like a gun going off and her husband approached him about it.

She warned her children not to allow their ball to go into Anthony Mahony’s  field. 

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Michael Ferris pictured at Tralee Court House. Photo By Domnick Walsh.
Michael Ferris pictured at Tralee Court House. Photo By Domnick Walsh.

“In the last few years, you’d just be careful,” she said of the dead man.

The banger from early morning to late at night was “like a gun going off”, she said.

Cross examined by Brendan Grehan SC for the defence, Rattoo was a scenic location and at the end of the country road was  one of the best preserved round towers, Mairead Walsh agreed  

The banger had been placed against a wall, around 120 metres from their house . The dead man  knew they had a problem with the noise and he could just as easily have moved it, but “he was no way accommodating.”

Asked if she feared the dead man, she said “yeah” and breaking down in tears recalled  an incident while on the lane when the late Anthony O’Mahony was standing at his gate.

“He shot right over my head and I got really scared," she said.

 She challenged him and he just shouted abuse at her.

“It was his way or no way,” Ms Walsh also said of the deceased. The Michael Ferris she knew was “gentle and soft,”  she  answered Mr Grehan.

Everyone had got on well on the lane including Swiss national  Michael Schumacher who owns a holiday home at Rattoo.

Patrick Walsh, husband of Mairead Walsh  said the crow banger had been set up by Mr O'Mahony, on the Thursday, six days before April 4,

It was going off “every 4 minutes and 26 seconds, I had it timed,” Mr Walsh told Mr McGrath.

Michael Ferris (blue shirt, no tie) who appeared at Tralee District Court in May 2017. Anthony O'Mahony (inset) Pic:Mark Condren
Michael Ferris (blue shirt, no tie) who appeared at Tralee District Court in May 2017. Anthony O'Mahony (inset) Pic:Mark Condren

He phoned the council on Monday 3 fearing he would have to put up with this again to next October. He was told to keep a log.

He also gave evidence of  how in 2013 the deceased “blew a gun over our heads,” as he and his wife and daughter passed him on their walk.

Of the banger Mr Walsh also said: “You’d have to live alongside a banger to understand that. It’s horrendous. It would follow you everywhere up to your room, out in your yard, it’s everywhere,” he said referring to the echo since it had been placed against the wall of a building near their house, rather than in the corn field where it had been.

Asked why it had been placed against the wall, by the deceased, Mr Walsh said this was to  reflect the noise.

He also said he was concerned about Mr Mahony the deceased and feared for his children.

Trial Opens

The trial of Michael Ferris, a north Kerry dairy farmer for murder will hear how he had “intentionally rammed” the car of a neighbouring landowner, a tillage farmer, with the large prongs of a teleporter on a country road at around 8am in the morning, causing severe damage to the car and “catastrophic injuries” resulting in death a short time after, a jury was told this morning.

Michael Ferris, of Rattoo, Ballyduff, Co Kerry, aged 63, has pleaded not guilty at the Central Criminal Court in Tralee to the murder of John Anthony O’Mahony aged 73 at Rattoo on April 4 2017.

The presumption of innocence was stressed at the opening of the trial and Mr Ferris was an innocent man until proven otherwise, the senior counsel for the DPP, Patrick McGrath said.

Outlining the “anticipated evidence” to be put before the jury of five women and seven men over the next two weeks, Mr McGrath SC said the jury will hear how just before 8 o’clock on the morning of April 4 2017, the accused man, Michael Ferris was driving a teleporter “with large prongs” facing out of its front on a country road.

They would hear he “intentionally rammed”  the blue Peugeot 508 car driven by the deceased “on a number of occasions,” Mr McGrath said.

This caused severe damage to the car “and catastrophic injuries” which resulted in death a short time later.

It occurred in the townland of Rattoo in the village of Ballyduff not far from Listowel, on a country road, off the main Tralee to Ballyduff road.

The dead man John Anthony O’Mahony   and his brother had bought 100 acres of land in Ratttoo, in the late 1980s, initially for vegetable growing but  and in recent years were using it for tillage.

A bachelor farmer, the deceased lived not in Rattoo but in a townland not far from Rattoo.

John Anthony O’Mahony was a man who had “a very regular routine” , the jury were told and he had some health problems.

Over the years there  appeared to have been some falling out between the deceased and Michael Ferris and they avoided each other.

Maps would show how close the land owned by the deceased   and the home of the accused Michael Ferris were, the jury were also told.

Mr Ferris was 62 at the time of the incident and he was a dairy farmer with about 90 acres, farming with his brother, and of good health and active.

Mr Ferris would be described by neighbours “as a quiet man, an obliging man and also a man of routine”, Mr McGrath said.

The two had not spoken for a period of time.

A particular issue arose about the use of a crow banger, a large device used in tillage, which discharges bangs at regular intervals to keep crows away from crops at planting and other times  and it seems difficulties arose between Mr Ferris and the deceased about the use of the bangers, counsel said.

“The deceased did not appear to be the easiest of men. He was an awkward man  and   could be a difficult man and a man who had fallen out with a number of neighbours,” Mr McGrath said of the dead man John Anthony O'Mahony.

The crow banger had annoyed not jiust Mr Ferris, "but had also annoyed a number of other neighbours over the years," counsel said.

The jury would also hear, Mr Ferris  went to neighbours on the morning in question and said “Mahony is gone” and when gardai  from  Listowel arrived on the scene they found the severely damaged car and the deceased was in the car with serious injuries to his head and body and it was obvious there had been a violent incident.

The Listowel guards observed debris along the road of between 50 to 70 ft;  the teleporter was parked alongside Mr Ferris milking parlour, there appeared to be blood on one of the prongs and blue paint.

An outline of what the pathologist Dr Margot Bolster will present was also given to the jury by Mr McGrath:

Poly trauma had been suffered by the deceased with “at least five penetrating wounds”. At least two through the body of the deceased and through his back,” Mr McGrath said.

There were multiple penetrating wounds of the heart and liver.

The jury were told to put aside prejudice and put aside sympathy in “this very serious case.”

Brendan Grehan, SC, for Mr Ferris said there would be no issue with the crime scene, the forensic analysis of the teleporter or the arrest of Mr Ferris.

It is admitted the accused Michael Ferris was driving the teleporter on the day, Mr Grehan said.

Effectively the issue to the forefront will be “not what happened but why it happened”, Mr Grehan said.

The trial continues presided over by Ms Justice Carmel Stewart.

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