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Man guilty of murder after coma victim dies

A MAN who is already serving a 12-year sentence for the attempted murder of his friend has now been convicted of his murder in a landmark case.

Jonathan Dunne (26), of Windmill Park, Crumlin, Dublin, had pleaded not guilty to the murder by shooting of Ian Kenny at Lakelands Road, Stillorgan on July 31, 2009. He now faces life in prison.

Mr Kenny, a father of two, remained in a persistent vegetative state until his death in Beaumont Hospital almost two years after the incident, which happened outside shops in broad daylight on July 4, 2007.

Dunne, a qualified plumber, was already serving a 12-year sentence for Mr Kenny's attempted murder when his victim died in hospital. But he was then retried for the murder -- the first case of its kind since the law changed in 1999.

Previously, a person could not be tried for the murder of a person who survived longer than a year and a day. But that law changed, making Dunne the first person to be tried for a murder in which the victim died outside that time frame.

Denis Vaughan-Buckley, prosecuting at the Central Criminal Court, asked the judge, Mr Justice Paul Carney, for time to allow for the preparation of victim-impact statements.

These will be heard at the sentencing hearing on February 27, when Dunne will be given the mandatory life term.

Dunne shot Mr Kenny, who was sitting in his own car, in the head and shoulder with a sawn-off shotgun.

He then pushed him out of the passenger seat and set fire to the vehicle, with the gun inside it, a short distance away at Dargle Woods, Knocklyon.

Garda Liam Brennan, who was on patrol in that area, came across Dunne walking along the road, sweating and covered in blood, when he admitted shooting Mr Kenny.

"I shot Ian Kenny in the head due to circumstances. It was either him or me. I was done a favour and this is how I had to repay," Dunne told him.

He later told gardai that he owed a favour because he had lost a consignment of drugs worth €50,000 when he was a teenager and was told to shoot Mr Kenny twice in the head.

Speaking outside the Central Criminal Court, the victim's father, John Kenny, said the family was glad that they had got justice.

Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis gave evidence that the cause of death was "bronchopneumonia, persistent vegetative state, brain injury due to gunshot wound with contributing factor -- shotgun wound to the upper arm, July 4, 2007."

He told Mr Vaughan-Buckley that people in a prolonged coma were at risk of developing pneumonia but could be kept alive. However, they eventually succumbed to infections -- "usually pneumonia".

He concluded that the deceased had sustained a shotgun wound to the head and arm and as a result of being in a persistent vegetative state developed bronchopneumonia.

Mr Justice Carney told the jury the main issue they were concerned with in the case was causation, which seldom comes before the court.

The jury of seven men and five women found him guilty by unanimous verdict in just under two hours of deliberation following the week-long trial.

Irish Independent