A Tipperary father of two has been jailed for life for murdering his friend with what he described as ‘Bruce Lee’ punches because the victim ‘wouldn’t shut up’.
John Hannigan (46) of River House, New Quay, Clonmel had pleaded not guilty to murdering Anthony Fallon, also a father of two, in Clonmel on January 18, 2012.
He had also pleaded not guilty to assault causing harm to the 46 year-old on the same date at Mr Fallon's flat on Abbey Street in the town.
However, a jury found him guilty of both counts today, following a trial at the Central Criminal Court.
The eight-day trial heard that Hannigan called an ambulance to River House shortly before 7 o’clock that morning, telling the emergency services that Mr Fallon had rung his doorbell and then collapsed.
A post-mortem exam found 31 separate fractures to Mr Fallon's ribs, along with fractures to his collar and breast bones.
The cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head and trunk, with the trunk injuries the major cause.
Hannigan later told gardai that his friend’s death was on his hands.
He said he had lost his temper when Mr Fallon ‘would not shut up’ and had punched him ‘hard and fast’ like Bruce Lee.
He said the deceased had never lifted his hands to defend himself.
He said they had been drinking throughout the night with another man in Mr Fallon’s flat, before leaving to buy more alcohol.
He said Mr Fallon began asking for the alcohol as they walked towards River House, that ‘a light switch went off’ and he assaulted him.
The other man, Joseph O’Riordan, had also beaten Mr Fallon earlier in the night. The court heard that O'Riordan is currently in jail, having pleaded guilty to assaulting him.
However, Hannigan entered the witness box on Wednesday and said that he was ‘just panicking’ when he told gardai he had attacked the deceased on the walk through the town.
The prosecution asked the jury why the accused would tell lies implicating himself in a crime he didn’t commit.
However, the defence argued that his accounts of beating his friend were unreliable, noting that he had told gardai that he had a black belt in karate, before admitting that he had no belt.
The jury was also given the option of bringing in a verdict of manslaughter, if satisfied that Hannigan had killed his friend but lacked the statutory intent for murder.
However, following four hours of deliberations, the seven men and four women reached a unanimous verdict of guilty of murder.
They also found him guilty of assault causing harm by unanimous verdict.
Hannigan kept his head down while Detective Sergeant Seamus Maher told the court that he suffered from adjustment disorder and had alcoholic tendencies.
He said his parents were both outstanding members of the community in the rural area where they lived.
Mr Fallon’s widow, Elma Fallon, then entered the witness box to deliver an emotional victim impact statement on behalf of his family.
“Thank God, justice has been served,” she said.
She described her husband’s injuries as outrageous and shocking, and said that the stress of having to identify him in ‘his horrific state’ would leave her and other family members with emotional and psychological scars.
“These will be etched in our minds, eternally,” she added through tears.
She said they hoped both O’Riordan and Hannigan would serve their prison time with knowledge and guilt of the loss, heartache, distress and grief they had caused. She said the family could not forgive either man.
“We hope that every time Joey O’Riordan and John Hannigan close their eyes, that their guilt reminds them of their horrifying, appalling and shameful actions,” she said. “No sentence served or justice given will ever replace or bring our loving Anthony back.”
Both family members of the deceased and the accused sobbed as Mr Justice Paul Carney imposed the mandatory life sentence on Hannigan.
He remanded him in custody until May 12th, when he will be sentenced for the assault.