Thursday 18 January 2018

Elderly farmer freed on murder appeal as court orders retrial

Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

AN elderly farmer has been released from jail after his conviction for the murder of his older brother was quashed by the Court of Criminal Appeal.

The court has now ordered a retrial.

Cecil Tomkins (63), who is confined to a wheelchair with advanced Parkinson's disease and multiple systems atrophy, was found guilty of murdering Walter Tomkins (66) in a row over the burial of their mother.

He told gardai he had shot his brother, a fellow bachelor, at the family home in Cronelea, Shillelagh, Co Wicklow, on July 1, 2010, because Walter did not follow his mother's burial wishes.

Bella Tomkins was buried locally in Aghowle in a grave alongside her late husband just three days before the shooting, even though she had reserved a plot in Gorey and left a letter outlining her wishes and money to cover her burial there.

Mr Tomkins had pleaded not guilty to the murder but a jury found him guilty of murder by unanimous decision.

He has been released on bail from Wheatfield Prison.

Concerns for Mr Tomkins' future care in the event of his being released from jail were raised by the judges of the Court of Criminal Appeal (CCA) on Tuesday after no family support appeared for him at the hearing.

Error

However, Mr Tomkins' legal team subsequently sought a bail hearing and succeeded in having the farmer released from prison pending a retrial.

Mr Tomkins appealed his conviction to the CCA seeking to overturn the jury's decision as unsafe.

The CCA said the charge by the trial judge to the jury contained an error in law because the judge did not deal with the point that premeditation was not necessarily inconsistent with diminished responsibility.

Quashing the conviction, it found the defence of diminished responsibility "went to the very essence of the trial" and not alternative contentions canvassed by the defence lawyers which had "few realistic chances of success".

At his home in Co Wicklow, Charles Tomkins, brother of the two men, would not make any comment on the quashing of his brother's conviction.

Irish Independent

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