Monday 22 July 2019

Man (35) who pleaded guilty to killing of fitness instructor Seamus Bell jailed for five years

Seamus Bell (inset)
Seamus Bell (inset)
Ian Begley

Ian Begley

A 35-year-old man, who killed a father-of-three in a one punch attack last year, has received a five year prison sentence.

Vytautas Racys, with an address at The Oak, Loughnaglack, Carrickmacross, pleaded guilty to the unlawful killing of fitness instructor Seamus Bell on the Main Street of Carrickmacross on January 20, 2018.

Judge John Aylmer passed the sentence before the Circuit Criminal Court in Monaghan yesterday, with credit given to Mr Racys for the time he spent in custody.

Mr Bell had been out celebrating with his partner, Edel Tighe, and close family members following the christening of his twin daughters Cara and Ava when he suffered a one-punch assault from Mr Racys.

The incident left the 35-year-old in a coma, but he died five months later on June 2, 2018 at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda.

In passing sentence, Judge Aylmer had noted that this was an unprovoked attack in which the accused had followed Mr Bell on the street for at least five metres before striking him with a right-hand uppercut.

It had been accepted by the defendant that Mr Bell had his hands in his pockets at the time, so the inevitable consequences were that he fell to the ground without the protection of his arms.

Judge Aylmer said he had to take mitigating factors into account, which included the accused’s admissions and guilty plea, his cooperation and expressions of remorse and the apology he had given in court.

Mr Bell was a well-known sports instructor active in GAA circles in Monaghan and in his native Armagh.

Members of Mr Bell’s family including his father, sisters and brother, had given lengthy accounts of the impact of his death earlier in the hearing.

His partner, Edel Tighe, said she would never forget Seamie, who played a huge part in everyone’s life.

Mr Bell’s father, Michael senior, said Seamus had been the family’s “pride and joy”.

After sentencing, his family said they were unhappy with the sentence and did not believe justice had been done.

Mr Racys, who is a married father of two children from Lithuania, was remanded in custody at Cloverhill Prison in Dublin since the assault.

His solicitor, Damien Rudden, said at the time that Mr Racys made no application for bail, telling him that he was “sorry this incident occurred” and that he was willing to start his sentence immediately.

Last year, Ms Tighe’s parents, Cyril and Noella, told Independent.ie of the sequence of events that led to Mr Bell lying unconscious on the ground.

“We were all out having a great day. It was just perfect,” said Noella.

“We were in one pub in the town and Seamus was playing pool when this man came in and started creating a bit of trouble.”

Cyril said: “He wanted the pool table and we didn’t want any hassle so we left.

“Then, later, we were walking along the Main Street and we saw him coming towards us, and he seemed to recognise Seamus.

“He put out his arms as if to hug Seamus, it was as if he was kind of apologising for what happened in the pub earlier. “Seamus must have thought that if he went with the hug it would just calm the situation, but as he stretched out his arms, the other man just threw a punch at him.”

Noella said: “Seamus fell backwards and his head hit the footpath, and he was knocked out cold.

“I couldn’t believe the sound of it. It was like a crack,” she added through tears, as she cradled one of the twins.

Mr Racys then left the scene  before being arrested the following day in relation to the attack.

The incident, which was captured on CCTV proved central to the investigation.

While he was critically ill in hospital, Mr Bell’s family held a constant vigil at his bedside.

They hoped his healthy lifestyle would help him recover, however nothing could be done to save his life.

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