Thursday 23 November 2017

Farmer's grief as neighbour is jailed over land dispute attack

Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

A FARMER was jailed for 18 months yesterday after a bitter feud with two elderly brothers over a disputed land boundary ended in tragedy.

Cork Circuit Criminal Court heard how three families were left devastated by how a long-running row over ownership of a stream and ditch spiralled into a violent assault two years ago.

Three men -- a father, son and nephew -- pleaded guilty to assault causing harm to elderly farming brothers, Patrick (70) and John Twomey (68), of Mt Rivers, Rylane, Co Cork, on August 19, 2008.

John Twomey later died from a heart attack while en route to hospital following the assault.

Patrick Twomey said yesterday that his life was totally destroyed by the incident. He said that he was lonely and was afraid to live alone in his old family home.

In a victim impact statement read in court, Pat Twomey said: "I have been left lonely and never went back to my own house to live on my own. We were very happy. We were both single men and we were very happy farming."

Connie O'Sullivan (58), of Annagannighy, Rylane, was jailed for three years with 18 months suspended after being described as "the ringleader" of the confrontation.

His son, Finbarr O'Sullivan (25), of Millview Terrace, Model Village, Dripsey, and his nephew, Thomas Byrne (25), of Rylane East, were both handed two-year suspended prison sentences.

Judge Patrick Moran was told that the assaults arose from a dispute that dated back more than 20 years.

The Byrne and Twomey farms adjoin each other and are separated at one point by a ditch inside of which is a stream. The Byrne family maintains that the ditch is the boundary and they have full ownership of the stream on their side.

However, the Twomey brothers maintain that the stream is the actual boundary and that they have half-ownership of it.


Civil actions had been fought about the issue over 20 years.

On August 19, 2008, the Twomey brothers brought an excavator to the boundary and began to remove a portion of the ditch with the intention of creating access for their animals to the stream.

However, Carmel Byrne, who owns the adjoining 140-acre farm and is a sister of Connie O'Sullivan, spotted the work in progress. She rang her brother and he immediately drove to the scene with her son, Thomas, and his own son, Finbarr.

After entering onto the Twomeys' land, the trio confronted the elderly brothers.

Pat was sitting in his car, while John was operating the excavator. Words were initially exchanged with Pat before he was attacked and beaten.

Pat was eventually knocked to the ground and was punched and kicked by all three men.

Connie O'Sullivan beat him with a piece of timber fencing that he picked up in the field.

John Twomey spotted what had happened, got off the excavator and walked over. He then turned around and tried to run back to his own home. However, his trousers slipped down and he fell.

He was attacked by the three men who punched and kicked him. They continued to beat him while he lay on the ground.

After the assaults, the Twomey brothers returned to their home and called the gardai. When gardai arrived they immediately called an ambulance.

John Twomey -- who had serious heart disease -- suffered a massive cardiac arrest en route to hospital and was pronounced dead on arrival.

All three defendants yesterday apologised for their actions and Judge Moran was told that Connie O'Sullivan still "relives the event every single day".

Irish Independent

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