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Sunday 16 December 2018

Manslaughter is 'fair, just verdict' for farmer who killed neighbour - jury told

Jury told victim had been 'oppressing' community

Stock image
Stock image
Farmer Michael Ferris (63). Picture: Domnick Walsh

Anne Lucey

The jury in the trial of a Kerry farmer accused of murdering a neighbouring tillage farmer has been told by the defence "the fair verdict, the just verdict" would be manslaughter, not murder.

Michael Ferris (63), of Rattoo, Ballyduff, Co Kerry, has pleaded not guilty to the murder of John Anthony O'Mahony, of Ardoughter, Ballyduff, on the morning April 4, 2017, at Rattoo, when he drove the forks of his teleporter into a car driven by Mr O'Mahony.

The Central Criminal Court, sitting in Tralee, was told it was all about a crow banger, a device for scaring away birds, and defence counsel Brendan Grehan said the community of Rattoo was being oppressed by the deceased and living in fear of a totally unreasonable person.

Mr Grehan said he rejected the prosecution claim the killing was intentional and deliberate.

"We are all capable of losing it or getting excited. With some of us, it builds up slowly," Mr Grehan said.

The defence made "absolutely no apology" for what could be seen to be "character assassination" of the deceased.

Normally, one did not speak ill of the dead, he said.

"All of this was done so you can appreciate where Mr Ferris was coming from," Mr Grehan said.

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Decency

By contrast, nobody had a bad word for Mr Ferris - they spoke of his decency, his neighbourliness, his helpfulness, his obliging nature.

The accused accepted he unlawfully killed Mr O'Mahony - but this was manslaughter, not murder, Mr Grehan said.

Speaking about the scene of the crime, Mr Grehan said Rattoo was the site on an ancient monastic settlement.

The ancient site "stands as a monument to community".

"People lived close to each other and shared activities," he said.

"And really that is what you heard in this case - people living in community, baking scones and dropping down scones to two bachelor farmers who got their dinner brought up to them," Mr Grehan said.

However, Mr O'Mahony and his crow banger amounted to oppression of the community.

The device was highly intrusive, in particular the repetitive nature of it going "boom boom" all day long. "The neighbours just had to put up with it because this man had a sense of entitlement," Mr Grehan said.

Patrick McGrath, for the prosecution, told the jury the actions of Mr Ferris, the accused, were not consistent with a sudden loss of self-control or acting in a fury.

He had been thinking about it for a number of days.

"What is remarkable is his behaviour afterwards, the absence of regret, the absence of remorse, the absence of shock," Mr McGrath said.

The counsel referred extensively to the interviews with detectives in which Mr Ferris agreed he had set out that morning to kill Anthony O'Mahony and that he drove the forks of the teleporter in through the car window. Asked if he had set out to kill him, the accused had said: "Well if I didn't kill him, I would have seriously injured him anyway."

Michael Ferris had never suffered from mental health problems, he had not acted under a sudden loss of control, Mr McGrath also said.

In her charge to the jury, Ms Justice Carmel Stewart told the five women and seven men their decision must be unanimous.

Summing up the prosecution case, at the end of her address to the jury, Ms Justice Stewart said it was the prosecution case that Mr Ferris parked his teleporter on the laneway, he went off and did a few jobs, he heard a horn hooting and got back into his teleporter.

She said if they accepted the defence plea of provocation, because of past history in relation to the crow banger, the loss of self-control must be total and "cannot be tinged by calculation".

The jury deliberated for just over an hour yesterday, and were set to resume deliberations today.

Irish Independent

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