Wednesday 20 November 2019

Gardai went to wrong house after anonymous tip-off, murder trial told

Eugene Gillespie, who died after being found unconscious
Eugene Gillespie, who died after being found unconscious

Niamh O'Donoghue

THE trial of a 30-year-old man accused of murdering a pensioner has heard that an anonymous 999 caller said a man was tied up in a house – but investigating gardai went to the wrong address.

Simon McGinley, of Connaughton Road, Sligo, has pleaded not guilty to the murder but guilty to the manslaughter of Eugene Gillespie (67) in Co Sligo on September 22, 2012.

He pleaded guilty to the false imprisonment of Mr Gillespie and trespass to commit robbery at his home in Old Market Street on September 19, 2012.

The Central Criminal Court heard the manslaughter plea was not accepted by the State and a jury was sworn in for the two-week trial.

Mr Gillespie was found covered in blood and unconscious by his brother and nephew on September 21 and died in hospital the next day.

When found, he was lying in the hallway of his home with his hands tied behind his back and his hands were swollen.

The court heard his neck was bruised and there was evidence of a ligature around it.

Mr Gillespie, who was last seen on September 19, had swelling on his forehead, eyelids and the back of his neck. He had suffered a fracture to the base of his skull and a broken jawbone.

The court heard the cause of death was bronchial pneumonia, due to the coma induced by blunt-force trauma to his face, head and neck.

Sean Gillane, prosecuting, told the court in his opening address that the deceased was a retired telecoms broker who also worked in the family shop and lived alone with his dog.

Mr Gillespie was last seen early on the evening of September 19 and he had made an arrangement to meet his partner the next day, which he did not turn up for.

Mr Gillane said the deceased was subjected to a degree of violence with repeated blows.

He told the court an anonymous 999 call was made to gardai on September 20.

"The caller indicated to the guard that there was a man tied up in a house near a brown gate opposite the barracks," said Mr Gillane.

The court heard that investigating gardai went out to a house but found nothing untoward there, as this was not the residence of Mr Gillespie.

The call, which Mr Gillane described as 'terse', lasted 10 seconds or less.

Mr Gillane submitted the 999 call was made by the accused from a telephone belonging to one of his acquaintances.

The next day, Mr Gillespie was found by his nephew and brother tied up in his house.


An ambulance was called and Mr Gillespie was taken to Sligo General Hospital where he died the next day.

The deceased's nephew, Paul Gillespie, said that he and his father Brian, who has since died, entered the house with a spare key after they became worried about him.

Mr Gillespie said he found his uncle lying on the ground with his hands tied behind his back.

He said he ran to the garda station, which was nearby, and phoned the ambulance.

Mr Gillespie said the kitchen was very badly ransacked "like something seriously went wrong in there". The witness said he went upstairs and one of the bedrooms was also badly ransacked. He said his father noticed that his uncle's hands were tied and he cut his hands free.

He said his uncle would not have been overly security conscious and that the front door had a two-lock system on it.

The deceased's partner, Joan Linnane, described him as "generous, helpful, kind and thoughtful". Ms Linnane testified that Mr Gillespie never kept money in the house and "didn't believe in carrying cash".

She said she last spoke to him on Wednesday, September 19, at around 10.45pm and said he would see her the following evening.

The witness gave evidence that she rang him the following evening at 11.15pm and there was no reply but she was not that concerned.

On Friday, she was growing uneasy and contacted Mr Gillespie's family.

That night, she was told by the Mr Gillespie's sister that he had been taken to hospital and was told "things were not good".

She told Dara Foynes, prosecuting, that Mr Gillespie did not drink and had not indicated concerns for his safety.

The trial continues with a jury of seven women and five men with Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan presiding.

Irish Independent

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