Thursday 19 September 2019

Farmer (74) jailed for shooting man and dog in long-running feud

John Hayes. Photo: Liam Burke/Press 22
John Hayes. Photo: Liam Burke/Press 22

David Raleigh

A farmer has been jailed for a year for shooting a fellow farmer and killing the man's dog in a long-running feud over a right of way.

Ted O'Donoghue (74) shot and injured John Hayes (66) on lands at Ballycasey, Kildimo, Co Limerick, on June 16, 2017.

The pensioner, who is in poor health and appeared in court with two walking aids, will spend Christmas with his family as his sentence was deferred to January 7.

Limerick Circuit Court heard that a spray of pellets fired from O'Donoghue's shotgun had travelled through Mr Hayes's tractor, injuring him in the shoulder and killing his beloved sheepdog, Lassie.

O'Donoghue, of Kilmoreen, Kildimo, admitted firing at Mr Hayes from the licensed gun.

He pleaded guilty to all three charges against him, including one count of a reckless discharge of a firearm, one count of assault causing harm to Mr Hayes, and one count of animal cruelty.

Ted O’Donoghue shot John Hayes in right-of-way row. Photo: Press 22
Ted O’Donoghue shot John Hayes in right-of-way row. Photo: Press 22

The court heard that at around 10.30am on the day of the shooting, Mr Hayes was about to open an access gate at the right of way, when he was met by O'Donoghue, who was holding the shotgun.

O'Donoghue said that he told Mr Hayes: "You are never coming in here again", and fired at him.

Following his arrest, O'Donoghue told gardaí he believed the passageway was being destroyed by tractors travelling up and down it.

"They have it tore asunder with tractors... but I'll stop them," he said.

Dead: Lassie the dog was killed when Ted O’Donoghue opened fire
Dead: Lassie the dog was killed when Ted O’Donoghue opened fire

He told gardaí he shot Mr Hayes after he had observed him driving his tractor towards the right of way.

He said that, having travelled ahead of Mr Hayes in his own van, he got out of the vehicle and shot him.

"He wanted to open the gate. I blazed at him. I fired a shot at him, and that's that," he told gardaí.

"I shot at him... He was outside the gate, but it's my land.

"He shouldn't have been there. He was trespassing."

When asked by gardaí if he had deliberately shot Mr Hayes, he replied: "Not exactly.

"I don't know. I don't think so."

Mr Hayes wrote in a victim impact statement that, following the shooting, he became "withdrawn socially, fearful, and stressed".

"I was sure he was going to kill me. He had an angry look about him," he said.

"I heard Lass scream. I was terrified," he added.

Garda Jason Mitchell told an earlier hearing at Limerick District Court that the shooting was part of "a long-running feud over a right of way".

A neighbour told gardaí there had been tensions between O'Donoghue and other farmers about the right of way for "40 years".

Judge Tom O'Donnell sentenced O'Donoghue to two-and-a-half years in prison with the final 18 months suspended.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News