Tuesday 24 April 2018

Student (21) was beaten to death over gay pass at farmer, trial told

Joe Heffernan
Joe Heffernan
Eoin Ryan

Natasha Reid

THE motive for killing a gay student in Clare two years ago was the issue of homosexuality, according to a Central Criminal Court prosecutor.

Bernard Condon was giving his closing speech in the trial of a farmer charged with murdering the 21-year-old.

Joe Heffernan (33), of Cappagh Beg, Barefield, Ennis, denies murdering Eoin Ryan at that address on June 7, 2011.

The Newhall law student's body was found in a barrel on his farm that morning, after Mr Heffernan reported killing "the devil".

Mr Condon told the jury that it was not necessary to establish a motive for murder.

"However, I suggest there is a motive, a very glaring issue which stands out, the issue of homosexuality and his reaction to that," he said.

He pointed to Mr Heffernan's 'abhorrence' that he might be homosexual or have engaged in a homosexual act.

Mr Condon reminded the jury that one of the first things the accused told gardai was that he was not gay and the man had come on to him. "He made a pass at me and I'm no queer. He's the devil," the accused had said.

Mr Condon read out some of what Mr Heffernan told a doctor in the Central Mental Hospital.

"I think he was a gay. He made a pass at me and I kind of went along with it," he said, adding that he was embarrassed. "I suggest that's what this case is about, not just embarrassment, abhorrence," said Mr Condon.

Patrick Gageby, defending, suggested that either a mental disorder or intoxication had caused his client to see the devil, and argued for a manslaughter verdict.

"Eoin Ryan was assaulted with astonishing and unusual severity," he said. "It is worth considering the extraordinary case of overkill."

He reminded the jury that Mr Heffernan said the devil was in Mr Ryan's eyes and noted that his eyes were badly damaged.

"This killing was not rational," he said.

He reminded the jury that a psychiatrist examined him after his arrest and said he was suffering from a psychotic disorder, possibly schizophrenia.

A forensic psychiatrist interviewed him three times over the past two years and said that it was not certain that he suffered from schizophrenia. She said he was now off all medication and had no symptoms, but that it may be too early to tell.

"If in six months' time, you having passed a verdict and his symptoms did reappear, that would be a real difficulty," said Mr Gageby.

"We're saying there is a mental disorder; at the time of the killing he was psychotic, and that diminished his responsibility," he said, calling for a manslaughter verdict.

Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy will charge the jury of seven women and five men on Monday.

Irish Independent

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