Sunday 20 October 2019

'Sorry for taking your son's life,' Rattigan tells victim's mother 17 years after killing

Dead man's family reject apology as 'too convenient'

Guilty: Brian Rattigan of Cooley Road, Drimnagh, Dublin, after he was found guilty of the murder of Declan Gavin on August 25, 2001. Photo: Collins Courts
Guilty: Brian Rattigan of Cooley Road, Drimnagh, Dublin, after he was found guilty of the murder of Declan Gavin on August 25, 2001. Photo: Collins Courts
Andrew Phelan

Andrew Phelan

Killer Brian Rattigan has told the mother of a man he stabbed to death 17 years ago: "I am very sorry for taking your son's life."

The gangland criminal's letter of apology for killing Declan Gavin was read out at his sentence hearing after he pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

"May Declan rest in peace and may God protect him," Rattigan said.

However, Mr Gavin's sister told the Central Criminal Court the timing of Rattigan's apology seemed "too convenient". In a victim impact statement, Tara Gavin said her world was "turned upside down" by her brother's death and after nearly 18 years the "loss and sadness doesn't disappear".

Her mother Pauline Gavin had not read Rattigan's apology and felt it came "too late", the court heard.

Mr Justice Michael White said he would impose sentence on January 24.

Rattigan, now 38, pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Mr Gavin (20), who he stabbed in the heart outside Abrakebabra at the Crumlin Shopping Centre on August 25, 2001.

Mr Gavin's killing sparked the infamous Crumlin-Drimnagh feud, which claimed 16 lives over the course of 10 years. Rattigan, of Cooley Road, Drimnagh, had previously gone on trial for murdering Mr Gavin and was convicted in 2009 but that was overturned on appeal.

His plea last October to the lesser charge was accepted by the State and Rattigan has remained in custody. Chief Supt Brian Sutton said Mr Gavin was out socialising at 3am when a Nissan Micra pulled up.

Witnesses heard shouting of "rat, where is he?" and a man wearing a balaclava - Rattigan - got out carrying a large knife and ran towards Mr Gavin, stabbing him in the hand and chest.

Mr Gavin retreated into Abrakebabra and collapsed, while Rattigan tried to follow him but the security man held the door shut.

Tara Gavin said after her brother died, the "happiness was taken from our home" and was replaced by "sudden sense of sadness".

"After so many years listening to 'I didn't kill Declan,' it seems the timing of this apology is a little too convenient," she said.

"We have waited nearly 18 years to hear what we knew 24 hours after Declan's death - that Brian Rattigan is responsible for the manslaughter of my brother."

Rattigan was in custody since 2003 and was serving a 17-year sentence for directing the supply of drugs from within prison, with a release date with remission in November 2019.

Brendan Grehan SC, defending, read out Rattigan's letter.

"Dear Mrs Gavin," it began. "I would like to apologise to you and your family for the events that led to the death of your son. I am very sorry for taking your son's life. I've regretted that night in silence ever since.

"I hope that after over 17 years it will be over and you will have closure. May Declan rest in peace and may God protect him."

Rattigan had taken part in Christmas pantomimes in Portlaoise prison including 'Cinderella' and 'The Wizard of Oz'. He regretted the stabbing which was "unplanned", had taken a lot of drink and cocaine on the night and was "out of it".

The court heard Rattigan had been in custody since February 15, 2003 and had served 22 years of combined sentences.

Mr Grehan said the court had discretion not to make the sentence consecutive.

Irish Independent

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