Sunday 20 October 2019

Man found guilty of murdering 90-year-old retired farmer Paddy Lyons

Farmer found beaten to death in his own home

Paddy Lyons: 90-year-old was found dead in an armchair at home
Paddy Lyons: 90-year-old was found dead in an armchair at home
Ross Outram. Photo: Cork Courts
Victim: Paddy Lyons suffered multiple blows to the head

Alison O'Riordan

A jury has convicted a man of murdering a 90-year-old retired farmer, who has found beaten to death in his own home.

The panel of eight men and four women rejected the 28-year-old's claim that he repeatedly struck Mr Lyons in "self defence" after the pensioner, who suffered from osteoporosis and only had the use of one arm, "attacked" him with a stick.

The trial heard that the farmer's body was discovered slumped in his armchair at his home. Blood was smeared down his face and his penis was exposed through his underpants. Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster told the trial that Mr Lyons suffered multiple blows to his head and neck from a blunt weapon and had fractures of his hip joint, jawbone and ribs.

Paddy Lyons lived alone on his farm and had "trusted everyone", the court heard, but became the victim of what was described as a "truly shocking and outrageous" attack by Outram, who has previous convictions for burglary and assault.

Ross Outram. Photo: Cork Courts
Ross Outram. Photo: Cork Courts

It was the State's case that Outram had carried out "a vicious and sustained attack on a defenceless old man" with a non-functioning arm and the defendant's claim of self-defence did "not bear thinking about”.

Outram of Ferryland, Waterford Road, Clonmel in Co Tipperary, had pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr Lyons at Loughleagh, Ballysaggart, Lismore, Co Waterford, at a time unknown between February 23 and 26, 2017.

Before sentencing today, a victim impact statement was read to the Central Criminal Court by the prosecution on behalf of Paddy Lyons' home help in Lismore, Mary Fennessy.

Ms Fennessy said she knew Mr Lyons for over 20 years and "if anyone deserved a place in heaven it's Paddy".

"He was happy with simple things, had a great love for life and loved meeting people. He was a well known, well respected man of our community and he is greatly missed," she said.

Ms Fennessy explained that Mr Lyons was the oldest man in their village and he was a "very friendly and trusting man".

Paddy Lyons, who was found dead in his home near Lismore, Co Waterford.
Paddy Lyons, who was found dead in his home near Lismore, Co Waterford. PHOTO: PROVISION

"He didn't drive a car but everyone in the village knew him and would give him a lift in and out of Lismore. Everyone liked him," she said.

"He liked a simple life and loved sitting by the fire and listening to the radio. He loved having visitors and reminiscing about times long ago. He was a very religious man and never missed mass no matter how bad the weather was," she said.

"I loved going down to visit Paddy every day. He was very grateful for any job you'd do for him. I'd bring him down dinner and bring in timber for the fire. He didn't have running water or any luxuries that you'd have in a modern house but he was always happy and content with what he had," she said.

"One of the days when I saw Paddy at his happiest was when the priest said mass in Paddy's home, what we call 'stations'. He was king of the castle that day. Paddy said 'twas a great day altogether' and talked about it for months afterwards," she concluded.

The jury took three hours and 29 minutes to come to their unanimous guilty verdict. Mr Justice Paul Coffey thanked the jury for the conscientious manner in which they had dealt with this long and difficult case.

"The care you have given to the case has been exemplary," he said before exempting them from jury service for a period of 15 years.

Defence counsel Michael O'Higgins SC told the court that his client wanted to apologise for having killed Mr Lyons and he was remorseful for his actions.

The court heard that Outram has 25 previous convictions which include burglary, theft, possession of stolen property and assault causing harm.

Mr Justice Coffey then sentenced Outram to the mandatory term of life imprisonment for murder. The sentence was backdated to when he went into custody on February 27, 2017.

Addressing Outram, Mr Justice Coffey said his conduct was "a truly shocking and outrageous fatal attack on a defenceless 90-year-old man in his own home."

During their deliberations yesterday, the jury had asked to re-hear evidence from two pathologists and to see a hoodie that belonged to Outram and a grey hat that belonged to Mr Lyons.

There was a further inquiry from the jury yesterday as to whether Mr Lyons' grey hat had blood on it. "The answer is no, no blood was found on that," replied Mr Justice Coffey.

Defence counsel, Michael O'Higgins SC, outlined in his closing speech that Outram told gardai in his interviews on two occasions that Mr Lyons was alive when he left the house because he [the deceased] had put on a grey hat.

“That’s an unusual memory fragment and why would Mr Outram invent that detail?” emphasised the barrister, adding that a garda had given evidence that he found a grey hat in the vicinity of Mr Lyons' fireplace.

However, the judge told the jury this morning that he wanted to address them in relation to "the issue of blood on the hat". "There is in fact no evidence that the hat was examined for blood and therefore no evidence that there is no blood on the hat.

If your examination of the hat raises a possibility that there is blood on it then no inference should be drawn against the accused," outlined the judge.

The hat was then given to the jury for them to examine in their jury room.

Forensic scientist John Hoade gave evidence in the trial that he examined a grey hoodie belonging to Outram and found blood on the right sleeve and hood which matched Mr Lyons' DNA profile. Garda Eugene O'Neill testified that he went to Outram's house at Ferryland on February 27 and searched the back bedroom, where he seized a grey hoodie.

Outram told gardai in interviews that he had “fought back” after Mr Lyons hit him with a walking stick and shovel, and that he had taken up to 100 Xanax that day. However, a pharmaceutical expert told the jury that there was "no proof" that Outram had taken Xanax.

The three-week trial heard medical evidence that Mr Lyons suffered a “stiffness or fusion” of his right shoulder during childbirth and could only keep it in one position.

Mr O'Higgins argued in his closing speech that Outram had acted in self-defence and that he could not be made liable for "a fall" which saw Mr Lyons break his hip if it was unconnected to the original injuries inflicted on him by the defendant

However, prosecution counsel John O'Kelly SC said in his closing speech that it “flew in the face of all common sense” to suggest that Mr Lyons’ hip injury could have occurred after he was subjected to the attack or could be seen as something entirely independent.

“There is no evidence to show that it could have happened later or was entirely separate and independent,” he outlined.

Furthermore, Mr O'Kelly submitted that no one knew how much truth "if any" was in Outram’s version of events as he had lied consistently in his first six garda interviews.

In charging the jury, Mr Justice Coffey said that in order to convict Outram of murder they must be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Mr Lyons’ fall and the fracture of his hip was either directly caused by the multiple blows inflicted on him or it was reasonably foreseeable that it was a natural consequence of these blows.

If the jury found that Mr Lyons fell on the ground or collapsed in the course of being repeatedly beaten by his attacker, the judge said they could find that causation had been established.

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