Friday 23 March 2018

'Time is no healer,' says father of young man killed at bonfire party

'All of our hearts are broken... No parent should have to bury their child'

Lorcan O'Reilly
Lorcan O'Reilly

Peter Doyle

THE father of 21-year-old Lorcan O’Reilly, who was fatally stabbed in the heart by a 14-year-old boy at a bonfire party, said today no parent "should have to bury their child".

Paddy Rooney said his wife and children were “robbed that night of a happy, kind and thoughtful” son and brother.

His son’s killer, who is now 16 and cannot be identified because of his age, had originally been charged with murder and a trial date set.

But at an arraignment hearing at the Central Criminal Court last November, the teenage pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to Mr O’Reilly’s manslaughter at the Oliver Bond flats in Dublin during the early hours of November 1, 2015.

Today, Mr Rooney fought back tears as he told the court that his family will “never be able to celebrate Halloween again, the night he (Lorcan) was took from us”.

Sitting in the witness box, yards away from the accused who sat impassively in the dock, Mr Rooney read out a victim impact statement on behalf of his closest relatives.

The Funeral of Lorcan O'Reilly at The Church of Saints Augstine and John The Baptist
The Funeral of Lorcan O'Reilly at The Church of Saints Augstine and John The Baptist

Mr Rooney said Mr O’Reilly’s mother and brothers and sisters were still struggling to come to terms with the death and that he personally was finding it “unbelievably difficult to relive the events of the that awful night”.

“Nothing has been the same since. Time is not a healer,” he said. “All of our hearts are broken.”

Relatives at the Funeral of Lorcan O'Reilly at The Church of Saints Augstine and John The Baptist
Relatives at the Funeral of Lorcan O'Reilly at The Church of Saints Augstine and John The Baptist

He said his son enjoyed creating music on his laptop and had his whole life in front him, adding: “He will never get to fulfil his potential.

"We will never hear his laugh again or see his cheeky smile. No parent should have to bury their child.”

Earlier, the court - which had been closed off to members of the public except close relatives of the accused and deceased - was shown CCTV footage that had captured the moment the accused plunged the knife into Mr O’Reilly’s heart.

Detective Inspector Paul Cleary, of Kevin Street garda station in Dublin, told prosecution counsel Brendan Grehan SC that the recording was from cameras situated inside the Oliver Bonds flats complex.

As the footage was played to the court, Det Inps Cleary said the accused could be clearly seen swinging a hurley as he walked towards the area where the Halloween party was being held.

Det Insp Cleary said that the recording then showed the accused arguing with his victim after “words were exchanged”.

The pair were separated by a “large number of persons” but the accused was seen returning four minutes later.

Det Insp Cleary added: “He (the accused) returns to the group and takes a knife from his pocket and brandishes it towards the group where Lorcan is standing.”

The footage then showed the moment the fatal blow was struck, which took place when the accused and Mr O’Reilly clashed for a second time.

Second later, Mr O’Reilly is seen clutching his chest after he had chased and confronted his attacker who had tried to flee the scene.

Michael O’Higgins SC, defending, said his client had endured a “difficult and chaotic childhood”.

Mr O’Higgins said the accused, as a child, had moved addresses frequently and his family rarely stayed in one place for more than six months.

Before settling in Ireland with his mother, he had lived in four different countries.

Mr O’Higgins said his client had expressed remorse and, despite his difficult upbringing, he had told the psychologist preparing a background report for the court that “my worst memory is that I killed someone. I am only a child. I keep thinking about what I have done and I am sorry for all the family.”

Before adjourning the case for sentencing, Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy said it was a “difficult case for any judge. It is a homicide, a serious homicide.”

The accused was remanded on continuing bail until next Monday.

Evidence from previous hearing:

Last November, the court was told that the deceased and the defendant had both attended an organised Halloween bonfire next to the flats in Dublin’s south inner-city.

The event began on the evening of October 31, 2015, and Det Insp Paul Cleary agreed with Mr Grehan that a large crowd of youths later congregated inside an open area of the flats during the early hours of November 1 as the Halloween party continued.

Describing the events leading up to the fatal attack, Mr Grehan said the accused and deceased had been involved in a slagging match at around 2.40 am and that at 2.42am the accused was caught on CCTV in possession of a hurley.

One witness, whose unnamed statement was read out in court by Mr Grehan, told gardai that “there was a lot of slagging off going on. He (the accused) was saying who he was and who his dad was.”

Another witness, who was also not identified in court, told investigating officers that Mr O’Reilly had been trying to stop a fight between the accused and another boy but the accused “wanted the fight to go on”.

Det Insp Cleary agreed with Mr Grehan that the accused had been swinging the hurley towards the deceased while shouting: “You don’t who my dad is… You don’t know who I am.”

Taking the hurley from the boy, Mr O’Reilly was heard saying: “I don’t care. I’m not letting a 14-year-old talk to me like that.”

At that point, the accused left the scene but returned minutes later and struck Mr O’Reilly in the chest with a knife.

He then ran off but Mr O’Reilly chased after him and the pair clashed again, with Mr O’Reilly receiving a second stab wound to below his right eye.

Moments after the second altercation, Mr O’Reilly approached a friend and said: “I’m after being stabbed…”

He was then taken by car to the accident and emergency department of the nearby St James’s Hospital where he later went into a cardiac arrest.

And despite the best efforts of the hospital medical staff, which included a cardiac massage, Mr O’Reilly never regained consciousness and was pronounced dead at 4.05am.

Mr Grehan told the court a post-mortem later revealed the fatal blow had been a knife wound to Mr O’Reilly’s chest that had punctured his heart.

He said: “The critical wound was the one that had gone into the chest and that this was the cause of death.”

Mr Grehan also told the court that assistant state pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster, who had carried out the post-mortem, later viewed CCTV footage of the attack and confirmed that the first blow struck by the boy “was consistent with the injury she found in the autopsy”.

The court was also told that although around 23 youths had been present at the Halloween party, the gardai had struggled to gather witness statements and that 19 arrests had been made during the course of the investigation.

When asked by Mr Grehan if gardai had had concerns about “the safety and well-being of witnesses”, Det Insp Cleary replied:

“Serious concerns.”

Days after the killing, on November 4, the accused - who has no previous convictions - attended Kevin Street Garda Station under his own volition with his maternal and paternal grandmothers.

And during a subsequent interview with gardai on that date, Mr Grehan described how one of the grandparents said to her grandson: “Show him the bruises on your arm. When are you going to tell your side of the story? When your solicitor comes?”.

The accused was later charged with Mr O’Reilly’s murder on April 1 this year.

During the hearing, Det Insp Cleary agreed with Mr Grehan that the deceased had been a “popular and well-liked member of the community and people spoke highly of him”.

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