Sunday 25 February 2018

I am ashamed of myself, says mum-of-four who killed grandfather

The case was heard at the Central Criminal Court.
The case was heard at the Central Criminal Court.

Niamh O’Donoghue and Natasha Reid

A mother-of-four who killed a grandfather at a party last year has told a judge she is “ashamed” of what she has done.

Joanna Kelly (40) wrote a letter to Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy, which was read to the court on her behalf at a sentence hearing at the Central Criminal Court earlier today.

Kelly and Michelle Hynes (41), both of no fixed abode, had pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Joe O’Brien.

A third person, Patrick Keating, is serving a life sentence for murdering the 60-year-old at an apartment on William Street in Waterford city on April 23, 2012.

In court today, Isobel Kennedy SC, defending, read the handwritten letter from Kelly to the judge.

“There’s not a day goes by that I do not think of Joe O’Brien and his family and the loss they have suffered,” said Kelly.

“I have never been involved in any sort of violence, I am entirely ashamed,” she said.

Kelly said alcohol was no excuse for her actions and she would never drink again.

“Alcohol is no excuse for causing harm to anybody and because of my actions and where it (alcohol) has lead me I will never consume another drink again,” she said.

“I want you to know that this is a matter that rests very heavily on me every day and which will always be with me until the day I die,” she said.

“It is a sentence which I will carry with me to my grave,” she added.

Detective Garda David Butler testified on Monday that five people were drinking alcohol in the apartment on that date.

The occupant of the apartment was a friend of the deceased. At one stage, while in the bathroom, he heard three thumps. He returned to see Mr O’Brien lying on the floor and Keating striking him with a dumbbell, the court heard.

“Joanna Kelly and Michelle Hynes joined in, kicking him while he was defenceless on the ground. Both were equally aggressive,” the detective told the court.

“Both kicked him all over the body, but not the head. They were both shouting at Joe and were very abusive,” he added.

Det Gda Butler told the court that one suggested cause of the assault was that Mr O’Brien had made a reference to oral sex. He said the occupant of the apartment thought that this was a joke, although in bad taste.

Mr O’Brien had also said he used to change Hynes’s nappies as a child.

The detective said that Keating reacted immediately to these comments and engaged in the assault on Mr O’Brien before the two women joined in.

He said that Kelly had 15 previous convictions for offences including assault, criminal damage, theft and larceny.

He said Hynes had 24 previous convictions for crimes including assault, drunk driving, criminal damage and theft.

Det Gda Butler said both were in custody since their arrest shortly after the killing.

He agreed with Brendan Grehan SC, defending Hynes, that Keating had used a dumbbell on Mr O’Brien’s head and that he died of severe blunt force trauma.

He also agreed that Hynes had been in a relationship with Keating and was in fear of him at times. He agreed that Hynes said Keating had told her to take part in the assault.

He further agreed that she had a long-standing, severe alcohol addiction and that her personality was not pleasant when she was under the influence. He was aware that she also had bipolar disorder.

He agreed that she had expressed remorse in a garda interview, saying her heart was broken that Mr O’Brien was dead, that she was sorry she had any part in it and that he had been a good friend to her.

Today Ms Kennedy said her client had some issues with regard to her interviews and there would have been an issue with them if the case had proceeded to trial.

“She accepts her responsibility and is deeply sorry,” said Ms Kennedy.

The deceased was a very good friend of Mr O’Brien’s and they used to drink together, Ms Kennedy told the court.

“She has made very, very serious efforts to rehabilitate,” she said.

Ms Kennedy said she was in receipt of counselling and there was a realisation now that her underlying difficulty is alcohol.

Ms Kennedy asked the judge to consider the plea of guilty and said that her client had expressed extreme remorse.

Kelly, who is the second oldest of six siblings has a reasonable education history and completed a six-month FAS course in hairdressing, the court heard.

She also worked in a mushroom farm and as a care assistant in a nursing home but at the end of her time there, her alcohol abuse became very bad.

The court heard she became unemployed for number of years.

Ms Kennedy told the court her client suffers from depression and had attempted suicide and self-harm.

On Monday the victim’s daughter, Aoife O’Brien, delivered an emotional victim impact statement.

“He wasn’t just a Dad,” she said of her father. “He was everything to us… He was deeply loved.”

She said if she knew what was about to unfold when she last hugged him goodbye, she would have held on tight and never let him go.

“My father will never walk us down the aisle,” she said of her and her sister.

Then, looking at the defendants, she said: “May God forgive you because we never will. No apology will ever be accepted. Unless it can bring our Dad back, it’s of no use to us.”

Mr Justice McCarthy said he would sentence the women next Thursday.

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