'You are never coming in here again' - Farmer shoots neighbour in dispute over passageway linking their land
A farmer, who shot and injured a neighbour over a dispute about the use of a passageway linking their lands, had nine months earlier produced a knife during a row with the son of another neighbouring farmer’s son, a court heard.
Ted O’Donoghue, (74), admitted firing a shot from his legally-held shotgun at 66-year old John Hayes, but said, he did not mean to harm the victim.
As Mr Hayes went to open a gate at the laneway he was met by Mr O’Donoghue holding a shotgun.
The court heard Mr O’Donoghue, of Kilmoreen, Kildimo, told Mr Hayes, “you are never coming in here again” before he fired the shotgun on June 16, 2017.
A single shot discharged from the gun blasted through the window of Mr Hayes’s tractor, killing his sheepdog “Lassie”.
Mr Hayes was injured when the same shot grazed his shoulder.
The right of way, at Ballycasey, Kildimo, is located on Mr O’Donghue’s land, but a number of farmers, including Mr Hayes, use it to gain access to their own lands.
On May 10, 2018, Mr O’Donoghue pleaded guilty to all three charges against him, including, assault causing harm to John Hayes; the reckless discharge a firearm; and committing an act of animal cruelty in relation to the discharge of a firearm leading to the death of Mr Hayes’s dog Lassie.
Mr O’Donoghue’s barrister, Anthony Salmon, SC, told his client’s sentencing hearing, on Thursday, that he had become “obsessed” about the ancient passageway, which the court heard dated back to the “horse and cart” era.
He said Mr O’Donoghue was concerned the laneway was being destroyed by tractors driving on it.
After he was arrested over the shooting, Mr O’Donoghue told gardai: “They have it tore asunder with tractors...but I’ll stop them.”
The dispute specifically involving the defendant and the victim had gone on for “ten years” the court heard, however one neighbour told gardai there were issues in the farming community over the right of way going back “forty years”.
Anthony Salmon, SC, representing Mr O’Donoghue, told the court that his client had “tried to deal with it through solicitors, but he wasn't getting anywhere with it.”
“It was festering away. It was like an obsession boiling over.”
Mr Salmon described Mr O’Donoghue as “a decent hardworking man”, and, he added, “consequences for him are very serious”.
“These disputes have a way of turning right minded people into obsessive fools. Incidents of a minor nature can become obsessive and overshadow their lives.”
He said Mr O’Donoghue “deeply deeply regrets his actions”.
The defendant told gardai that, on the morning in question, he saw Mr Hayes heading for the passageway, and he “drove up ahead of him”.
“He wanted to open the gate. I blazed at him,” Mr O’Donoghue told gardai.
“I fired a shot at him, and that’s that.”
“I shot at him..He was outside the gate, but, it’s my land. He shouldn’t have been there. He was trespassing.”
When gardai asked Mr O’Donoghue if he had deliberately tried to hurt Mr Hayes, he replied: “Not exactly...I don’t know...I don’t think so.”
Mr Salmon stressed that the DPP’s view was, there had been “no intent” to endanger life.
In his victim impact statement Mr Hayes said he had become “withdrawn socially, fearful, and stressed”.
“I was sure he was going to kill me. He had an angry look about him.”
“He fired the gun.”
“I was shocked.”
“I heard ‘Lass’ scream.”
“I was terrified.”
Evidence was heard that, Mr O’Donoghue had appeared in court in 2016, charged with producing a knife during the course of a dispute with the son of another neighbour.
At the time he escaped a conviction after the court applied the Probation Act.
Mr O’Donoghue is facing up to a maximum five years in jail in relation to the shooting charge, as well as receiving a possible fine of up to €250,000 for the animal cruelty offence.
Mr Hayes has begun civil proceedings against Mr O’Donoghue, the court heard.
Judge Tom O’Donnell said he needed to “consider (the evidence) carefully”.
He remanded Mr O’Donoghue on continuing bail to appear before Limerick Circuit Court for sentencing on December 19th, 2018.