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Man changes plea to admit murder mid-trial

A CORK man has been jailed for life for murdering his neighbour by inflicting over 90 wounds on him with a knife and a metal punching tool.

On the second day of his trial, William O’Leary (30) of 85 North Main Street, Youghal, County Cork, changed his plea and admitted murdering Michael O’Shea (31) on 13th January 2011.

O’Leary had initially pleaded guilty (GUILTY) to the lesser charge of manslaughter, but changed his plea to murder because his lawyer said he was “overcome with remorse”.

He also pleaded guilty (GUILTY) to stealing from Mr O’Shea’s flat, which was two doors up from his own, before setting it on fire in an attempt to destroy evidence.

The jury at the Central Criminal Court heard that Mr O’Leary had drunk a significant amount of vodka on the night in question and was in an emotional state following an earlier row with his ex-girlfriend.

He had been minding their son for the day, but his ex-girlfriend had come and taken the child when she realised from a phone call that Mr O’Leary was drunk.

Detective Inspector Brian Goulding told the court that Mr O’Leary went into Mr O’Shea’s apartment looking to use his phone as his own had no credit.

There was a minor disagreement between the two men, but Mr O’Leary told gardaí he “lost it” and started attacking Mr O’Shea, who was described in court as “blameless”.

In tearful interviews with gardaí shortly after the killing, Mr O’Leary said he used a knife to stab Mr O’Shea, and that when the knife became blunt he used a three-pronged metal instrument used for punching holes in plasterboard.

Evidence from the State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster showed that Mr O’Shea had received over 90 lacerations and fractures, including a slashed jugular vein which caused him to bleed to death very quickly.

Gardaí said Mr O’Leary hid Mr O’Shea’s body under a couch, and stealing a number of items including a TV, mobile phone, runners and cutlery, before setting the apartment on fire with a cigarette lighter.

Detective Inspector Brian Goulding told prosecuting counsel Tim O’Leary BL that Mr O’Leary told his father and sister what he had done, and that his father accompanied gardaí to arrest him.

Mr O’Shea’s twin sister, Rebecca O’Shea, told the court that her family’s lives were changed forever when Michael was murdered in his own flat.

In a victim impact statement, she addressed Mr O’Leary and said “You didn’t just murder Michael, you murdered all of us too.”

She added that when she saw Michael on his last day, “he gave me the biggest smile ever, and that you cannot take away.”

Speaking outside the court, Rebecca O’Shea thanked Mr O’Leary for not putting the family through the trial and said now that justice had been served, Michael could rest in peace.

Mr Justice Paul Carney exempted the jury of 8 men and 4 women from further jury service for the rest of their lives.