| 14.2°C Dublin

Gunman gets life for shooting dad in feud murder

A GUNMAN is beginning a life sentence for murdering a father of two as part of a bloody feud that has claimed 16 lives in the past 11 years.

A jury at the Central Criminal Cour found Garrett O'Brien, of Clover Hill, Bray, Co Wicklow, guilty of shooting 27-year-old Seamus O'Byrne dead as his young son watched on March 13, 2009.

Gardai believe O'Byrne was targeted because his partner, Sharon Rattigan, is a sister of jailed Dublin gang boss Brian Rattigan.

Rattigan is regarded as the leader of one of the gangs involved in the deadly Crumlin-Drimnagh feud that raged for more than a decade.

The case will be seen as a major success for gardai, given that it has been notoriously difficult to secure convictions in feud-related prosecutions.

During a five-week trial, the court heard how O'Byrne was shot five times in the driveway of his home at Tymon Park North, Tallaght.

O'Brien had denied murdering O'Byrne and had also pleaded not guilty to possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life on the same occasion.

The jury found him guilty by a unanimous verdict on both counts after deliberating for eight hours.

O'Byrne had been on his way out for the evening with Ms Rattigan when he was shot in the back by a hooded gunman.

Ms Rattigan had been strapping their 23-month-old baby son into his car seat and O'Byrne had been locking the house when the attack happened.

Ms Rattigan told the court how she managed to wrestle the gun from the hooded gunman, but was shot in the leg.

Gardai later found a phone and a can of Red Bull at the scene, which they believe fell out of the assailant's pocket during the struggle.

The jury were shown CCTV footage of a man, alleged to be O'Brien, buying Red Bull on the day of the killing.

O'Brien's DNA was found on the phone, while the phone's call records proved that he had been in touch with other suspects in the case around the time and area of the killing.

The State claimed O'Brien was the gunman and that he was one of a gang of men who plotted to kill O'Byrne.

However, the defence claimed O'Brien had been "innocently associated" with the plotters and had been simply "sent to get the messages".

Speaking outside the court, O'Byrne's sister, Charis, said a "gaping hole" had been left in their family from his loss.

"He was a very happy-go-lucky, loving person who didn't deserve to die the way he did," she said.

Brutal

O'Byrne's cousin, Annemarie Foley, read out a victim impact statement in court on behalf of Ms Rattigan.

She said O'Byrne had been a popular, fun-loving person who would always help a friend in need, and was a "constant light" in the lives of his family.

She told the court that Ricky was just under two years of age when he witnessed the murder, and that the only small mercy for the family had been that O'Byrne's daughter, Jody, then aged six, had not been present at the scene.

The court heard that Jody has not mentioned her father's name since he was killed, and that "a light has died in her".

"The horror of having your son, father, partner, brother and friend brutally murdered is too difficult to convey through words," said Ms Foley, but she welcomed the fact that justice had been obtained for "a cherished and loved family member." Ms Justice Iseult O'Malley imposed a mandatory life sentence for murder, backdated to March 17, 2009.

Irish Independent