Tuesday 12 December 2017

Face of forgiveness: OAP blames himself for beating

Michael Leech at work outside his home in Athea, Co Limerick yesterday
Michael bearing the scars after the vicious attack on Halloween night in 2008
Mark Murphy: suspended sentence
Charlie Murphy: suspended sentence

Barry Duggan

AN elderly grandfather who appealed to a judge not to jail two men who viciously attacked him said he blames himself for the incident that left him battered and bruised.

Michael Leech (74) said he forgave his assailants because he is a Jehovah's Witness.

He received a broken nose, black eyes, bruising and lacerations to his face and lost teeth after he confronted teenagers throwing bangers at cars in Athea on the Halloween night.

“If I hadn't gone over and grabbed him by the shirt and said: 'What the blooming hell do you think you're blasting well doing' -- it wouldn't have happened, would it?

"I didn't fight back. I just held my hand up and tried to protect myself. I remember being pulled backwards -- it was all over very quickly. I had a couple of teeth knocked out -- a few kicks here and there. I don't remember them saying anything," he said.

Enjoying the sunshine outside his home in west Limerick yesterday, he was building a garden shed after this week's court case in Limerick Circuit Criminal Court.

He told the Irish Independent that he had forgiven Charlie Murphy (22), and Mark Murphy (21) for the beating he received in Athea in 2008 because of his beliefs.

Sixty teenagers witnessed the assault and many of their parents refused to co-operate with gardai during the subsequent investigation.

Both men avoided jail sentences following their victim's appeals to Judge Carroll Moran.

"I'm a Jehovah's Witness and we study the Bible to understand it. It says in the Bible -- love your enemy," Mr Leech said.

"People can't understand because they don't understand the Bible. Well, I understand it (the Bible). Therefore that is why I said I didn't want them to go to jail.

"I don't know whether they are changed -- I hope so," he added.

Mr Leech said he was told that investigating gardai had received abuse from parents of the teenage witnesses.

"A lot of people didn't want to know and I believe they were quite abusive.

"They are like they are -- I can't change them."

Mr Leech, who moved to Athea more than 30 years ago from London, was attacked after he confronted youths who were throwing fireworks on to his people carrier as he waited to collect his wife from bingo.


"This went on for quite a while and I said 'crikey, one could shatter the glass'. I tried to get them to stop, but it went a bit further than that."

He said he was sure the attack contributed to the death of his wife, Kit, who passed away just over a year later.

"She had quite a shock and it did bring on heart trouble," he said.

Mr Leech said that since the attack he had suffered from memory loss and was "not able to do much".

"I can't remember people's names or the names of plants -- it just goes," he said.

In court this week Garda Gerard Griffin, who investigated the attack on Mr Leech in 2008, said that in his 32 years of service he had never come across anything like what he encountered following the assault.

He had to visit the homes of some of the 60 witnesses five or six times to establish the truth as their parents refused to allow their children talk to him.

Passing sentence on three of the young men involved in the incident in Limerick Circuit Criminal Court yesterday, Judge Carroll Moran praised the officers who investigated the attack.

The judge said they had to be commended for a "very thorough investigation" in the circumstances where they were given very little co-operation and faced a stone wall from many who were present.

Charlie Murphy (22), of Hillside Drive, Athea, Co Limerick, and Mark Murphy (21), of Lisselton, Co Kerry, avoided a jail sentence after their victim pleaded for leniency.

Mr Leech, who moved to Athea 32 years ago from London, said he did not want to see them imprisoned. Both men -- who are not related -- pleaded guilty to assault causing harm to Mr Leech on October 31, 2008, and received suspended prison sentences of two years.

A third man, Nigel Brouder (21), of Coole West, Athea, received the probation act after he admitted engaging in threatening and abusive behaviour during the same incident.

Irish Independent

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