Thursday 21 June 2018

'I want people to know my son died saving his friend's life'

The family of the late Leo Carolan (from left), brother Alex, mother Catherine and sister Eva, leave the Central Criminal Court in Dublin where Charles Cleary was sentenced to life in prison for Leo’s murder in 2016. Pic Collins Courts.
The family of the late Leo Carolan (from left), brother Alex, mother Catherine and sister Eva, leave the Central Criminal Court in Dublin where Charles Cleary was sentenced to life in prison for Leo’s murder in 2016. Pic Collins Courts.

Natasha Reid

A 24-year-old Dublin man has been sentenced to life in prison for murdering a student, who was ‘saving the life’ of his friend. Charles Cleary was given a concurrent 15-year jail term for that friend’s attempted murder.

Cleary, of no fixed abode but from the Rathfarnham area, had been motivated by robbery, when his surviving victim arrived at the deceased man’s flat with €14,000 he had just withdrawn from a bank.

He pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to the murder of Leo Carolan (25) at the flat on the South Circular Road on October 4, 2016 and to the attempted murder of Swiss student Ludovic Thomas (now 26) on the same occasion.

Detective Inspector David Harrington explained that Mr Carolan was a student of creative music at IADT, Dun Laoghaire. He told Patrick Gageby SC, prosecuting, that his mother was French and that he used to speak French to his Swiss friend, Mr Thomas. The accused, who was also a student at the time, was described as ‘a passing acquaintance’.

D Insp Harrington explained that Mr Thomas had arranged to visit Mr Carolan on the day of the murder, and that Mr Cleary was there when he arrived.

Mr Thomas had €14,000 in cash that he had withdrawn from a bank. He asked Mr Carolan for an envelope for the money and the deceased left the room to get one.

Scene of stabbing on South Circular Road, Dublin (Inset: Leo Carolan)
Scene of stabbing on South Circular Road, Dublin (Inset: Leo Carolan)

Cleary decided to steal the cash. He picked up a butterfly knife and stabbed Mr Thomas around his abdomen and mouth.

Mr Carolan returned, alerted by the commotion, and his killer turned his attention to him. This gave Mr Thomas time to escape. He ran out onto the South Circular Road, covered in blood and holding the knife with which he’d been attacked.

However, Cleary armed himself with another knife and stabbed Mr Carolan to death. The student suffered 12 stab wounds, which severed his jugular vein and went through his heart and both lungs.

Mr Thomas was taken to hospital with multiple knife wounds, including a laceration to his liver.

Meanwhile, the defendant took the money and made his way to Camden Street in his socks and in a bloody condition. He got shoes and clothes there before going to Dundrum, where he did some shopping.

He socialised with friends that evening and paid off his credit union loan the next morning, before taking the ferry to Holyhead. Most of the money was taken from him at Holyhead and he returned to Dublin a few days later.

He was arrested and eventually admitted his crimes. He said he was governed by ‘a sudden impulse’ to take the money.

Mr Carolan’s mother, Catherine, delivered an emotional victim impact statement to the court. She recalled the moment Leo, her first child, was born. She had almost died and their bond became even more intimate.

“My son and I would fight life together,” she said.

She said he was ‘a gentle soul’ and that all her memories of him as a baby were of joy.

“He and I entered into a world of our own,” she explained.

She said that when his brother, Alex, and his sister, Ava, came, he became the protector.

She said that she was able to discuss everything with her son and that he turned into a caring man. She said he was clearly very talented and would get lost in the beauty of the music he played on his guitar.

She said that he was the most non-judgmental person one could meet, used to volunteer with the homeless and worried about the suffering of people less fortunate that he was.

“He was an exceptional human being. He always hoped for a better world for mankind,” she said.

She said he was one of the most non-violent people she knew, but life was taken from him ‘in such a brutal and traumatic manner’,

“His life was only beginning,” she said, adding that she did not know where to begin in explaining the impact his death had on the family.

“My life stropped on the 4th of October,” she said. “Our lives have been shattered.”

She said that people tell her that things will get better, but she feels that the pain is getting worse.

She said that not only had Leo’s life been destroyed but the future lives of his siblings.

“There are so many songs we can’t listen to anymore, movies we can’t watch,” she noted.

“He was such an inspiration to us all. I want it to be known that Leo died saving his friend’s life,” she said.

“When I heard the news of his murder, I screamed, she said. “15 months later, I’m still screaming.”

Mrs Carolan embraced her other son, Alex, as she left the witness box and he entered.

He said that both his physical and psychological heath had gone down hill since his brother’s murder.

“The world stopped that day,” he said, explaining that his brother’s murder was the first thought that now comes into his head every morning.

He said he had spent the last 15 months mostly locked into his room, and that every plan he’d ever had had been cancelled.

Mr Gageby read out a statement on behalf of Mr Thomas, who said he had developed trust issues, paranoia and depression as a result of the attack.

He had been in his final year of college when he was attacked but left Dublin afterwards. He tried to transfer his credit home to a Swiss university, but it wasn’t recognised and he said he had therefore lost four years of his life.

He said he still had liver pain and that his mother had to give up work as a result of the attack.

He said he has nightmares of his attacker coming out of jail and murdering everyone.

He said that he had thought about suicide and is always looking at doors and people’s hands.

He said he is now the opposite to the social person he was before the attack.

He concluded that his birthday, which he had celebrated two days before the murder, would forever be associated with Leo’s death.

Justice Patrick McCarthy imposed the mandatory life sentence for the murder and 15 years for the attempted murder. He took the robbery into account.

Mr Thomas later thanked the people who had assisted him on the South Circular Road that day. He said they had ‘pretty much saved my life’. He also thanked the Carolan family, who left the court without comment.

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