Sunday 18 February 2018

Feud between neighbours that turned deadly

After thug threatened to slit his daughters' throats, killer said he was just trying to protect his family, writes Emer Connolly

LESLIE Kenny's luck finally ran out. He had suffered several beatings, but had bounced back after each one.

That was until the morning of July 29 last year, when his life came to an abrupt end.

His neighbour, Brendan O'Sullivan (26), took out a shotgun and fired at Kenny. He shot him twice -- in the chest and hip -- before reloading the gun and shooting him through each knee.

Kenny lay lifeless in O'Sullivan's front garden, in a quiet housing estate in Kilrush, Co Clare.

The accused denied murdering Kenny, but at the end of a six-day trial at the Central Criminal Court last Monday, the jury found him guilty.

O'Sullivan claimed he had shot Kenny to scare him off, after the 27-year-old threatened to harm his family. He said Kenny threatened to slit his daughters' throats, had promised to "shoot down" his back door and pour petrol in his letterbox.

O'Sullivan, of O'Gorman Street, Kilrush, told gardai he was terrified and that his priority was his wife Clare and their two young children. "If I wanted to kill him, I would have shot him in the head," he said. The shots, he claims, had been intended as warnings.

A dispute had broken out between O'Sullivan and Kenny some weeks before the murder, after Kenny stole O'Sullivan's mother's purse.

It was the prosecution's case that O'Sullivan lured his victim to his home patch, having shouted over the wall at him, "come down here and we'll talk about it".

However, O'Sullivan's lawyers asked the jury to put themselves in the position of the accused and to take into account the threats made by an unpleasant man.

The defence also asked the jury to consider the fact that O'Sullivan's actions -- shooting Kenny at 10.30am in broad daylight in a housing estate was "not the attitude of a person who planned to murder someone".

The jury had a difficult decision to make. Did O'Sullivan genuinely feel in fear of Kenny and was that why he launched an attack on him? Was he simply intending to send out a warning message? Or was it a premeditated attack?

Kenny's reputation and O'Sullivan's actions -- particularly his decision to reload the gun -- were two crucial factors to be considered.

It was not a clear-cut decision, given that Kenny's fearsome reputation was described in detail during the trial. There was no doubting he was feared in Kilrush. He had no shortage of enemies in the town. He was described locally as dangerous and unpredictable.

The murder trial was told he was "no angel" and that was to put mildly the views of those who were genuinely scared of him.

In the few years prior to his death, Kenny had been at the end of severe beatings, but survived each attack. In the aftermath of one of the attacks the year before his death, the grotesque damage to his face rendered him barely recognisable. Nevertheless, he continued to immerse himself in trouble in the town.

Along the way, he amassed 82 convictions, with gardai describing him as a nuisance and a pest.

In September 2005, Kenny caused uproar when he lashed out during a court sitting in Ennis, prompting the presiding judge to flee the bench. He attacked a man -- who was then accused and later convicted of murdering a woman in Kilrush -- for which Kenny was later jailed for five months.

Demanding and ruthless, Kenny believed he was invincible and did not foresee his fate when he encountered his killer on a bright summer's morning.

Sunday Independent

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