Tuesday 16 July 2019

Killer farmer showed 'no regret, no remorse'

Victim's family in tears as 63-year-old cleared of murder but guilty of manslaughter

Angela Houlihan, the sister of John Anthony O'Mahony
Angela Houlihan, the sister of John Anthony O'Mahony

Anne Lucey

The farmer who was found guilty of the manslaughter of 73-year-old John Anthony O'Mahony showed no reaction to the verdict. He had shown "no remorse" to the victim's family, the trial heard.

Michael Ferris (63) of Rattoo, north Kerry, was found not guilty of murder, but guilty of manslaughter at the Central Criminal Court in Tralee yesterday.

He showed no obvious reaction when the verdict was read out. The victim's family, however, were visibly upset - they broke down in tears and shook their heads.

At least 20 members of his family, including his brother Seamus O'Mahony, sister Angela Houlihan and nephews and nieces, took up two benches in the courtroom.

Prosecutor Patrick McGrath had argued that the actions of Mr Ferris, the accused, were not consistent with a sudden loss of self-control or acting in a fury. "What is remarkable is his behaviour afterwards, the absence of regret, the absence of remorse, the absence of shock," Mr McGrath had told the court.

The jury of seven men and five women had been deliberating for four hours and 31 minutes and returned the verdict last night.

The decision was reached by a majority of 10 to two following the trial, which lasted eight days.

Thanking them, Ms Justice Carmel Stewart said it had not been an easy trial and they were excused from jury duty for 10 years.

Michael Ferris, a dairy farmer, had pleaded not guilty to the murder of John Anthony O'Mahony (73), a bachelor and a tillage farmer of Ardoughter, Ballyduff at Rattoo, at around 8am on April 4, 2017.

Mr O'Mahony suffered "catastrophic injuries" and died from polytrauma, including evulsion of the heart and liver inflicted by the prongs of a teleporter.

His car had been lifted "clear of the ground" by the heavy industrial machine, the trial was told.

The forks at the boom of the teleporter had slid along and pierced the roof of the Peugeot car "like you'd open a can of beans", Garda expert witness James O'Brien said.

A crow banger, a device used to scare away birds, was at the centre of issues between Mr O'Mahony and neighbours.

It was brought into the court while a Garda witness explained how it works.

In interviews with gardaí on the morning of the incident, the jury was told Mr Ferris said he had blocked the road with his teleporter.

The court heard he had driven the forks onto the car and also said "it was about the crow banger".

The prosecution had argued the killing had been deliberate and intentional and it was murder.

However, the defence had argued there had been accumulated provocation because of the behaviour.

Brendan Grehan SC had said in his closing speech said he made no apology for speaking ill of the dead, which was not a normal thing to do. But it was necessary to show why Michael Ferris was "a good man who did a bad thing".

Michael Ferris [was] a man who had no previous convictions and for whom everyone had a good word, and was obliging and kind had not become a murderer overnight, Mr Grehan said.

Ms Justice Stewart said she wanted to express her sympathy to Mr O'Mahony's relatives on his death. Sentencing will be at the Central Criminal Court in Dublin on November 26.

Irish Independent

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