Wednesday 24 October 2018

Man sentenced to life in prison for murder of father-of-two

Seamus O'Byrne
Pic: Collins
Seamus O'Byrne Pic: Collins

Niamh O’Donoghue and Ruaidhrí Giblin

A 30-year-old man has been sentenced to life imprisonment for murdering a father of two in south Dublin five years ago.

Eugene Cullen of Derry Road, Crumlin had pleaded not guilty to murdering Seamus (Shay) O' Byrne (27) at Tymon Park North, Tallaght, on March 13, 2009.

The Central Criminal Court heard that Mr O’Byrne was shot dead by a hooded gunman in front of his girlfriend Sharon Rattigan and his baby outside their home.

It also heard Ms Rattigan tackled the assassin and was shot in the leg while seizing the gun from him.

The prosecution alleged that Cullen was not the gunman but one of four men involved in plotting, planning and executing the murder and was guilty by common design.

Cullen is the second person to be convicted for the murder. Garrett O'Brien, of Clover Hill, Bray, Co Wicklow was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2012 for being the gunman.

A jury of five men and seven women took three hours and 41 minutes to reach their unanimous guilty verdict.

Mr Justice Barry White handed down the mandatory life sentence and backdated it to May 8, 2012 for time spent in custody.

Mr Justice White thanked the jury before exempting them from further service for life.

The court heard Cullen was on bail at the time the murder took place.

Cullen was extradited from the Netherlands in November 2008 for a robbery in Galway.

The court heard was arrested in Amsterdam in May 2012 and has been in custody ever since.

He was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the robbery in Galway Circuit Court last year.

In a victim impact report read out to the court by the victim's older sister, Charis O'Byrne, the deceased was described as a popular son and loving father to his son and daughter.

She said he and his partner Ms Rattigan had been together in an extremely close relationship for over 10 years.

She had lost a mainstay in her life and was left with a gaping hole since the loss of her partner, the court heard. They lost what was a constant light in their lives.

His son was only 23 months old at the time he lost his father, she said, and he would likely have no memory of him when he grows up.

She said he was exactly like his father was at the age he was now.

Since that night, she said, a light had faded in his daughter. She has not mentioned his name and avoided photographs of her father.

“We hope one day she will regain her spark,” Ms O'Byrne said.

He had only recently taken over a local underage football team and, as a mark of the man, so many teenagers turned out for his funeral and spoke fondly of him.

She said he was missed at all family events and that Christmas was a particularly difficult time.

He was a rock for his brother Robert, she said, who found the trials extremely taxing.

“The result of this trial will not bring Shay back to us,” she said.

She thanked the court on behalf of the family and said they were particularly grateful to the gardaí, their legal team and to the jury for taking time from their own lives.

She said Shay could rest in peace, knowing justice had been served.

In his opening speech, Mr Alex Owens SC prosecuting told the court that Mr O'Byrne was shot at 8:15 pm as he was leaving his house on the date in question.

Mr Owens with Ms Anne Rowland BL prosecuting said Cullen was accused of being a knowing participant in the incident who had rendezvoused at The Red Cow Moran's Hotel with a number of plotters for the purpose of setting out to plan and execute the murder.

His alleged role was that of lookout, in a nearby getaway car that left the scene when things went wrong.

Cullen was also accused of purchasing a can of petrol at a service station for the purpose of burning out the getaway vehicle.

The court heard that Ms Rattigan tackled the gunman, disarmed him and in doing so was shot with a bullet that ended up in the deceased.

When things went wrong, counsel said, the other men “skeddadled,” and “left Mr O'Brien to leg it for himself”.

State Pathologist Professor Marie Cassidy gave evidence the deceased sustained five gunshot wounds.

The jury watched extensive CCTV footage in the three-week trial and also heard from a number of experts in relation to technical mobile phone evidence.

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