Sunday 17 November 2019

Family 'want to move on' as rugby captain's killer jailed

David Sweeney pictured leaving Dublin Central Criminal Court with family and friends following the sentencing of Gary Walsh. Photo: Collins Courts
David Sweeney pictured leaving Dublin Central Criminal Court with family and friends following the sentencing of Gary Walsh. Photo: Collins Courts

Eoin Reynolds

The family of a man "brutally" beaten to death have said they want to move on with their lives after his killer was jailed for five years.

Gary Walsh (35), with an address at The Watercourse, Orwell Park, in Templeogue, had been charged with murdering former St Mary's, Templeogue, rugby captain Cathal Sweeney (62) at a mutual friend's flat in Ashdale Gardens, Terenure, in Dublin.

Following two trials in which juries could not agree a verdict the State accepted his plea of guilty to manslaughter.

Passing sentence yesterday, Justice Patrick McCarthy said the appropriate penalty for the crime would be 10 years, but taking into account his guilty plea he reduced that to eight.

He also suspended the last three years of the sentence, saying that Walsh appeared to have rehabilitated and has a future that holds out some degree of hope.

Speaking outside the court, Mr Sweeney's son David Sweeney said his father "wasn't perfect, but he was a good person".

He added he thought the sentence would have been longer but now the family want to get on with their lives.

Justice McCarthy said he believed Walsh's remorse was genuine and reports that were handed to him showed that he was making progress, had taken responsibility for the killing and had quit drinking.

Speaking at a previous hearing, David Sweeney told how he cannot stop thinking of his father drowning in his own blood with nobody to help.

He noted his father had been an alcoholic, but said he was the only father that he and his siblings had. His killing had affected every aspect of their lives.

On the day of the killing the accused and the deceased had met for the first time that morning in the flat of a mutual friend, who was also an alcoholic. They drank while watching Ireland play rugby.

The attack was prompted by an allegation of sexual impropriety against Mr Sweeney for which Justice McCarthy said there was no evidence. He said Mr Sweeney was a man of "very good character", extremely friendly and generous.

However, Walsh punched the victim repeatedly until he said the victim admitted to the assault. Walsh stopped punching him because there was so much blood and then told Mr Sweeney to clean himself up.

Det Sgt Joe Molloy testified that Walsh later called the paramedics after finding Mr Sweeney slumped over in the bedroom. He said gardaí found Walsh to be nervous and uneasy when they arrived. Walsh claimed Mr Sweeney had been assaulted before arriving at the flat, but the other occupant told gardaí otherwise, and Walsh then admitted beating him.

Det Sgt Molloy explained a drinking session had been going on for some time, with Walsh consuming alcohol continuously for about 24 hours.

He said that a post-mortem examination found the deceased had sustained fractures to his nasal and cheek bones, which would have compromised his ability to breathe.

The resulting lack of oxygen would have caused brain injury.

The court heard that his cause of death was "blunt force trauma to the head and face with profuse haemorrhage on a background of coronary artery atheroma, an enlarged heart and warfarin therapy".

Irish Independent

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