A hero garda, who stared down the barrels of a shotgun while talking to an armed wife-killer for seven hours until he gave himself up, was today Monday awarded €25,000 compensation against the State.
Mr Justice Michael Twomey heard that Garda Thomas Fay walked from the basement of a Co Cavan pub with a man, who hours earlier had shot his wife at point blank range in the chest, only because the shotgun had mis-fired during the crucial life or death surrender talks.
Barrister Brid O’Flaherty, counsel for the now retired Fay who had been stationed at Bailieborough, told a Garda Compensation Hearing that he made little of the success of his heroic achievement and even less of his post-traumatic stress symptoms which he kept to himself for several years.
Ms O’Flaherty, who appeared with Liz Hughes of Hughes Murphy Solicitors, said that on 5th September 2013 Garda Fay received a call that a man he had known for 28 years, Oliver Kierans’, was suspected of having killed his wife, Patricia, whose body had just been found in a room at the Kierans’ former home in Drumbannon, Bailieborough, Co Cavan.
She said Gadra Fay had been told father-of-four Kierans was in The Square Bar, Bailieborough, where a siege situation had arisen and he had gone there to talk to him. During talks that lasted from 7 p.m. on September 5 until 4 o’clock the next morning, Kierans had pulled the trigger of the shotgun while pointing it at Garda Fay but it had not gone off.
Fay was awarded a Scott medal for his bravery during the armed siege in Bailieborough. He had already been awarded a Scott medal for bravery for having in 2011 helped in saving a drowning teenager from a Cavan lake.
Ms O’Flaherty said Garda Fay had found Kierans sitting in the dark in the pub basement and began talking to him. Eventually he had succeeded in bringing out Kierans, who, following a trial for murder in 2015 had been found guilty by a jury of manslaughter and possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life. He had been jailed for 12 years.
Kierans, who is now aged 60, had denied murdering his then 54-year-old wife and was found not guilty of the offence but convicted of manslaughter and with having had possession of the 12-bore double-barrel shotgun with intent.
Ms Justice Aileen Donnelly had been told in the Central Criminal Court in 2015 that Kierans had met his wife Pat when they were teenagers and had been married for 33 years up to her death. Kierans claimed he and his wife, following a split, had met and driven to their former home on the day and that he intended to take his own life but that the gun had discharged in the direction of Patricia, killing her.
Kierans’ children and 10 of his grandchildren had emigrated to Australia, the Criminal Court had been told.
Fay in evidence told Mr Justice Twomey he had called his colleagues for back-up at the pub and had gone down into the basement where he found Kierans sitting on a bench. He seemed to be in a distressed state and he had started talking to him. He had a double barrelled shotgun.
“By 4 a.m. he finally came out of the back door and admitted he had killed his wife and that she was in the back room of his house,” Garda Fay said.
Garda Fay said that between the pub incident and the murder trial he had not taken any time off work and had not sought any medical attention. It was the constant replaying of CCTV recordings for the jury at the trial that had eventually got to him.
“I had worked away and had got on with things basically but it was always in the back of my head,” he told Judge Twomey. “The trial brought it all back to me. I knew I probably needed help and sought medical attention, receiving medication and counselling.”
Ms O’Flaherty told the court Garda Fay had been found to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and, while he had retired from the gardaí in October 2018 he would probably have retired much earlier but for the fact he had an indoors job.
Garda Fay told Ms Anne Rowland SC, counsel for the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, that Kierans had pulled the trigger of the shotgun while they talked but he did not know if his intention was to murder him or not.
Awarding Fay €25,000 compensation Judge Twomey said Mr Kierans had pointed the gun at him and pulled the trigger but luckily the gun did not discharge. It transpired he had killed his wife earlier that day.
“Garda Fay had been prescribed medication and referred for psycho-therapy for mild to moderate post-traumatic stress disorder. He had been very honest and understated in his evidence,” Judge Twomey said.