Saturday 24 August 2019

'Where do we go from here?', judge asks after man makes 'breath-taking' application to withdraw guilty plea for murder

Kenneth Cummins
Kenneth Cummins
Sabrina Cummins

Alison O'Riordan

A Dublin man has made a "breath-taking" application to withdraw his guilty plea for murdering a "mentally challenged" 63-year-old man while his co-accused sister has been handed down a life sentence.

Sabrina Cummins (37) with an address at Ringsend Park, Dublin 4, pleaded not guilty to murdering Thomas Horan (63) at Cambridge Court, Ringsend on January 6 last year but last Tuesday after a period of five hours deliberating, a jury of six men and six women brought in a unanimous verdict of guilty at the Central Criminal Court.

Sabrina Cummins
Sabrina Cummins

Kenneth Cummins (28) also with an address at Ringsend Park, Dublin 4, pleaded not guilty to the charge initially but four weeks into the trial he changed his plea to guilty.

This morning Mr Giollaiosa O Lideadha SC told the judge he had been instructed to have his client's plea of guilty vacated as he was not in a fit state to make the plea on November 11.

Mr Justice Tony Hunt asked Mr O Lideadha "where would they go from here" on the assumption that the application is successful.

Mr O Lideadha said if the plea was vacated Mr Cummins would have to be put on trial again.

"This was a man who couldn’t wait to get out of the building and now he wants to come back," said Mr Justice Hunt.

"He wants a retrial and if it was possible to reconstitute the jury," replied Mr O Lideadha.

Prosecution counsel Mr Remy Farrell SC said this application was "breath taking" and no more than "a stroke" by Mr Cummins.

Mr Farrell said Mr Cummins wanted an opportunity to run the trial again without his co accused and he opposed it.

Mr Justice Hunt says it was a "remarkable application" in the circumstances and Mr Cummins will be "pushing a rock up a hill but we will see where it goes."

The court then proceeded with the sentence of Sabrina Cummins and she was handed a life sentence for the murder of Thomas Horan which was backdated to January 8 2014.

The judge said he would hear the victim impact statement in case Mr Cummins is unsuccessful.

The application for Kenneth Cummins will be dealt with on Monday December 7 at 10.30am.

This morning two victim impact statements were read to the court by prosecution counsel Mr Remy Farrell SC.

The first was from Margaret Horan, the ex partner of Thomas Horan. The court heard she is now in a nursing home, a place she feels she wouldn't be if "Tommy" was still alive. Counsel also read how she "dreams" about him all the time.

Mr Farrell then read a second victim impact statement written by Thomas Horan's brother-in-law, Mr Jim Muldoon.

The court heard as a family they have known Thomas Horan since the 1970's and it was through their sister Marge that they got to know him.

"Within two years of them meeting they got married, Tom and Marge lived in a number of different flats around the Ranelagh area after they got married. Tom did some work for the Marist Fathers in Milltown. He wouldn't have been paid much but Tom never needed much money to survive," read Mr Farrell.

The court heard Tom and Marge separated in 2000. They were never legally separated, but decided that they no longer wanted to live together.

"As Marge said they wanted different lives, but they never broke contact," he read.

"Tom used to walk up to Marge every other day. He was physically fit, never drank, or smoked, but he had the mental capacity of a twelve year old, of his time. Marge would be slightly better intellectually, than Tom, but you still have to be very patient with Marge," read Mr Farrell.

The court heard Tom was "very good to Marge all over the years".

"To be honest we were very lucky that Marge had someone like Tom to care for her. Marge is very aware of the circumstances of Tom's death, and Sabrina. Marge did mention that Tom was afraid of Sabrina," read Mr Farrell.

The court heard Marge said she would not be in a nursing home if Tom was still alive because he would not have allowed it and he would have looked after her.

The court heard that Marge said if herself and Tom were not separated, she felt Tom would still be alive today.

"She said she used to tell him not to answer the door after a particular time at night. Marge would be a bit more street smart than Tom would have been. After Tom's death, Marge did go into a state of depression, she wouldn't eat or wash herself, she went to skin and bone" he read.

"Marge is unfortunately aware of the horrible accusations that were made against Tom during this trial and it is sad that his character was attacked. Tom was so loyal, trusting and innocent. He didnt have family of his own but had pictures of Marge and the rest of us around his home. He was a loving man," concluded Mr Farrell.

Handing down the sentence, Mr Justice Tony Hunt said this was a difficult and depressing case with a number of upsetting features.

"Mr Horan was a decent man and that comes through in all of the evidence. A man who had his difficulties in life and he had his enjoyments and interests and devoted himself to the care of his wife," he said.

The judge said Mr Horan lived a "worthwhile life" and "minded his own business" and it was a pity he was not left to mind his own business in his own way.

He said his "great tragedy" was the day he came across Sabrina Cummins.

"I do not accept the reflection that Ms Cummins put across this normal and equivalent type of friendship, I have no doubt this man's infirmities were preyed upon," he said.

The judge said Mr Muldoon put this better than he ever could when he gave evidence in the trial and stated Mr  Horan was "an easy touch" which was "at the heart of the case and I don't think this is an unreasonable view."

He said he was satisfied this was not a friendly, social visit to a man which Ms Cummins tried to portray.

"Mr Horan's well being and sanctity was cruelly violated on this particular evening and I have no doubt these two visitors were unwelcome. He was sober and was confronted by two individuals who were well gone on drink. It had nothing to do with collecting dvds or any kind of social visit," he added.

He also said there was some strategy employed to con money out of Mr Horan with the preface of Sabrina's brother being a taxi driver  and Mr Horan was in fact relieved of his €50 which then funded beer and cigarettes "around this man's corpse."

"This man did not die an easy death and there is no comfort to be had in that. This man had the life strangled and ultimately poisoned out of him. This man was subjected to restraint from more than one person," he said.

The judge also said to the court that it is a tribute that the jury gave such lengthy consideration to hear such a modest defence put forward.

"For my part if would have taken me less time to reach a conclusion to this case. The torture and horrendous death this man suffered at the hands of Ms Cummins, she may not have been the main contributor but was a significant contributor. Her guilt is clear from the beginning as she lied from even before the police arrived and said she had discovered Mr Horan by an accidental view," he said.

He said "phoney stories" were told to gardai in Sabrina's first three interviews to cover up her guilt.

"She is a murderer and a brazen hard nosed liar and she did so at every juncture to cover up the death of Thomas Horan. I've rarely come across a case where evidence is so solid," he said.

Mr Justice Hunt said another unusual feature of the case was the fact that Sabrina Cummins got into the witness box and admitted to Thomas Horan's murder. The judge said he did not know how Sabrina "can have any complaint" concerning the verdict.

The mitigating factors he mentioned that should be placed on the record was the fact she did not seek to associate herself with the "most revolting" accusation made by her brother.

During the trial, the court heard that in a phone call from Clover Hill prison Kenneth Cummins told a friend that he killed Mr Horan because he had allegedly abused the accused's sister Breda, who is now deceased.

Kenneth Cummins had said in the course of the phone call: "You know Breda my sister who was murdered, he fostered Breda when she was a kid and raped her. She never opened her mouth, was too afraid to tell anyone. My sister (Sabrina) brought me to his, he admitted it and all, I lost the head and went mad and I killed him. I wasn’t meant to kill him, I only meant to put him in hospital."

Today in court Mr Farrell said not only was there "no evidence to support this but there was quite a lot of evidence to contradict this."

Counsel also said there had never been an occasion when Thomas Horan had fostered any children.

Detective Inspector Sean Campbell also agreed with the barrister earlier in the morning that this was "completely without foundation."

Upon handing down sentence the judge said it was "slander of the vilest kind and entirely false."

Mr Justice Hunt also said Sabrina Cummins had a difficult childhood but certainly not one that explained her callous and brutal treatment of Mr Horan.

"If she was a friend or cared she would have called gardai or told the truth. It is incomprehensible with the background of her sister being murdered how she treated Mr Horan that night." Mr Justice Hunt said he hoped some light had been shone on the death of Mr Horan, whose reputation had been sullied.

Mr Justice Hunt finally said it was "sad and distressing" but he had to impose a life sentence on Ms Cummins backdated to January 8 2014.

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