Sunday 21 January 2018

Son's death haunts me, says mum as killer is given life

The victim's mother Mary Crawford is pictured outside court yesterday with a picture of her late son Noel. Photo: Courtpix
The victim's mother Mary Crawford is pictured outside court yesterday with a picture of her late son Noel. Photo: Courtpix

Natasha Reid

A BROKEN-hearted mother has spoken of how she is haunted by the sight of her son lying dead at her front door as his killer was jailed for life for murder yesterday.

Father-of-six Noel Crawford was gunned down in a case of mistaken identity on his 40th birthday outside the home of his parents in O'Malley Park, Southill, Limerick on December 18, 2006.

Jonathan Fitzgerald (21), of South Claughan Road, Garryowen, Limerick, who pleaded not guilty to murder, received a life sentence following a four- week trial at the Central Criminal Court.

His co-accused, Michael O'Callaghan (19), of Pineview Gardens, Moyross, Limerick, was given a 14-year sentence -- suspended to seven years -- after pleading guilty to manslaughter before he was due to go to court in November.

O'Callaghan was just 15 years old at the time of the shooting, while his co-accused was 17.

Imposing the sentences, Mr Justice Barry White said that some years ago Limerick had the misfortune of being known as 'Stab City' and noted that O'Callaghan's own father was a victim of a fatal stabbing.

"Today, the violence in Limerick has escalated way beyond the level that existed previously to a level where there are gangland feuds, gangland killings and gangland retaliations," he said.

"In the trial of your co-accused. . . Limerick was likened by one witness to the Wild West and that has to end."

In her victim impact statement, Mary Crawford described herself as a "broken-hearted mother". She said they had been planning her son Noel's 40th birthday when he was "callously" shot.

"It was to be a day of great joy," she said. "But it was the day he died."

Pain

The pain that followed was indescribable. "I'm haunted by the sight of seeing my son lying dead at my front door," she said.

Her son was never in trouble in his life and was a good father to his children. She said he had missed out on the birth of his first grandson and his son's 18th birthday.

"He too was one of the innocents murdered," she wrote. "To the world, Noel was just another murder victim, but to me Noel was the world.

"I now spend half my life existing and the other half with Noel, not in person but in my heart," she said. "Thank you, son, for all you brought into our lives."

Detective Sergeant Denis Treacy told the court that O'Callaghan admitted his involvement a month after the shooting.

O'Callaghan said he was not actually with Fitzgerald when Fitzgerald carried out the murder. O'Callaghan had shown him the way to the house but hadn't gone all the way with him.

"He said he was sorry about what happened to Noel Crawford, that it wasn't meant for him," said Det Sgt Treacy.

"He said Jonathan Fitzgerald had meant to shoot Paul Crawford (the victim's brother)."

The detective said that O'Callaghan moved in with an 18-year-old cousin on the northside of the city when he was 14. Gardai would frequently encounter him in the company of criminals and wearing a bulletproof vest.

He agreed with Brendan Nix, defending O'Callaghan, that he had given as much information as possible to the gardai. He agreed that Noel Crawford and his mother were "thoroughly decent people".

"This incident on the night arose directly from the abduction," he explained, referring to the kidnapping of Fitzgerald's sister hours earlier. The trial heard that Fitzgerald had believed Paul Crawford was behind that crime.

Irish Independent

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