Wednesday 21 March 2018

Australian cleared of killing Irish tourist whose organs gave life to others down under

Gearoid Walsh
Gearoid Walsh reporters

AN AUSTRALIAN accused of killing an Irish tourist in Sydney three years ago has been acquitted in court.

Gearóid Walsh (23) died just one month after he arrived in Australia for a new life.

He got into an argument with Tobias Simmons (30) outside a takeaway food shop and was knocked unconscious with a punch.

A week later in October 2009 his family, from Dublin, made the heartbreaking decision to turn off his life support machine.

Simmons pleaded not guilty to the manslaughter of Gearóid Walsh on the grounds of self defence.

On his acquittal he expressed his deepest sympathy to the Walsh family.

After her son died his heartbroken mother Tressa Walsh said she did not want the man accused of killing her son jailed.

Mrs Walsh described Gearoid's five weeks in Australia as the "happiest of his life".

"I would really like to say that, as a mother, I really feel for this guy who got into a fight with Gearoid. I am heartbroken for him because we don't blame him, we don't want him to serve time in prison. I think he was just very, very unlucky," the mother-of-five said.

"We don't want him to torture himself over this, we don't see it as a murder, Gearoid was very tall, he was 6ft 2in; he had a long way to fall."

In September 2009 Gearoid left the family's home in Dublin to travel over to Brisbane after his older brother Ciaran organised a job for him as a roof insulator.

"He came to Australia to spend time in this beautiful country and to be with his older brother Ciaran and his sister Aoife who are lucky to live here," his mother said. "He came over here to work, as there is no work in Ireland at the moment."

Gearoid and his brother Ciaran travelled from Brisbane to Sydney to help celebrate their sister Aoife's 22nd birthday. They had been drinking in a number of hotels in Coogee, an area on Sydney's eastern beaches popular with Irish backpackers, before Gearoid and his brother went into a fast-food outlet around 11pm.

He became involved in a row with another man, after which the brothers left the take-away. However, he returned a short time later and the argument continued. Gearoid was allegedly struck and he fell, hitting his head on the pavement.

Police found him in cardiac arrest when they arrived on the scene and he was placed on life support at the Prince of Wales hospital.

"Even though Gearoid is a big guy, he wasn't a fighter at all," she said.

His mother maintained her composure as she described the "most positive" aspect of this awful incident was Gearoid's organs being donated to save the lives of several Australians.

“Three years ago I lost my husband, and now my family have lost an adored son, brother, and uncle. Gearoid was like a father figure to my eldest granddaughter, she is seven and so distraught," she said in 2009.

"I can't describe how devastated myself and Gearoid's brother, and sisters and nieces are but sadly our lives will never be the same without Gearoid."

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