Sunday 22 September 2019

Family of farmer (73) killed by neighbour with teleporter angry at 'victim blaming'

Michael Ferris handed five-year sentence over manslaughter

Ann O’Carroll speaking outside the court after the sentence was handed down. Photo: Collins
Ann O’Carroll speaking outside the court after the sentence was handed down. Photo: Collins
John Anthony O’Mahony

Eimear Cotter and Anne Lucey

The family of a farmer killed when his neighbour repeatedly drove a teleporter into him has said the trial was an example of "victim blaming".

Relatives of John Anthony O'Mahony (73) broke down in tears as his killer, fellow farmer and neighbour Michael Ferris (63), was yesterday jailed for five years for the pensioner's manslaughter.

Speaking outside court the victim's niece, Ann O'Carroll, said the pain of losing her uncle was made worse by the "blackening of Anthony's good name and character during the trial when he was not there to defend himself".

The court was told that Ferris "snapped" following a 30-year row with his neighbour over the use of a crow banger.

Ms O'Carroll said yesterday: "The defence legal team's use of alleged provocation in this case allowed the jury to return a conviction for the lesser charge of manslaughter.

"To our family it felt like they were using this for a justification for the killing of Anthony and as a result we believe it denigrates the value of Anthony's life.

"Victim blaming occurs daily in other court cases in Ireland and this is clearly another example of it in our criminal justice system. We would like to thank the guards, our neighbours, family and friends for their support during this difficult time. We are devastated at the loss of Anthony and we will never recover from this," she said.

She said justice was not served given the "deliberate and premeditated" nature of the killing, as outlined during the trial, and the just conviction was one of murder.

Ms O'Carroll said the family's pain has been "exacerbated by the lenient sentence".

Speaking from Co Kerry, Mr O'Mahony's sister-in-law Margaret said she knew him as an "honourable man" and said the family "can't understand" how Ferris was given a five-year sentence.

"I cannot believe it. It makes us feel that life is not worth anything any more in this country, that a person can do that to another person and get such a lenient sentence, I can't understand it," Margaret told RTÉ Radio One. 

"He was 73, his health wasn't great. He was a very straight, honourable man. He would never ever harm anybody, and it was almost implied that he might harm children twice. 

"He was the most honourable person, straightforward, and he knew what was right and what was wrong. He did what was right all the time." 

When asked about the use of the crow banger, Margaret said her brother-in-law was "entitled" to use it during the day. "The use of the crow banger was well within the law, he only used it in daytime hours which he was fully entitled to do," she said.

Mr O'Mahony's brother, Seamus, previously said his brother's reputation was "shredded" during the trial.

"Every story has two sides and there was only one side of the story told during this trial," he said in his victim impact statement.

Ferris, of Rattoo, Ballyduff, Co Kerry, had denied the murder of tillage farmer Mr O'Mahony (73) at Rattoo on April 4, 2017.

During the trial, the prosecution alleged that Ferris "intentionally rammed" Mr O'Mahony's car with the prongs of a teleporter causing severe damage to the car and "catastrophic injuries" to Mr O'Mahony resulting in his death.

The prosecution had argued the killing had been deliberate. However, the defence said there had been accumulated provocation because of the behaviour of the deceased.

The court heard that Ferris told gardaí he drove the forks of his teleporter through the car because there was no other way to stop Mr O'Mahony using the loud crow banger.

He told gardaí after his arrest that the banger, a device used to scare away birds, would wake the dead and had been an issue for 30 years.

Strategy

Meanwhile, his solicitor Frank Buttimer has described the trial as "one of the most unusual and possibly unique" murder cases he has ever been involved in.

Asked for his reaction to the sentence yesterday, Mr Buttimer said: "My first thought would be with the family of the deceased, Mr O'Mahony, who have suffered a great deal".

The entire history between his client and the deceased was simply tragic, he said.

Having said that, and having dealt with Ferris throughout the trial, he said he knew he was remorseful for his actions.

"In my dealings with him, I have found him to be a very decent man," Mr Buttimer said of Ferris.

He will complete his sentence and hopefully will return to his community, he added.

Asked about criticism by Mr O'Mahony's relatives about the shredding of his character, Mr Buttimer said the intention was never to blacken the late Mr O'Mahony. The only strategy available to the defence was of provocation.

The case was of the kind where there were essential issues to be dealt with that went to the heart of the matter and if the defence had not raised those issues, they would not have acted well for their client. "It wasn't to blacken Mr O'Mahony in any circumstances," Mr Buttimer said.

Irish Independent

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