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Monday 18 December 2017

Killer soldier on path to freedom with work course

Murderer picked for job programme designed to help ease offenders back into community

Larissa Nolan

Killer soldier Sean Courtney -- who has fathered a child during his time behind bars -- is on the path to freedom and will be released from jail in a matter of months.

Courtney, who beat Patricia O'Toole to death with a rock 20 years ago, is now in Mountjoy Prison's training unit, the last stop in the system before prisoners are let out.

He has undertaken a re-integration course to prepare him for release, expected to be before the end of the year.

He will then be able to enjoy his life with his girlfriend Louisa O'Neill, 34, and their one-year-old baby son, who he fathered while serving a life-sentence for murder.

The 44-year-old former soldier, who had been in Loughan House open prison in Co Cavan, was transferred two weeks ago to the training unit, which has the facility for him to do a reintegration course ahead of his release.

The Pace course -- a probation service training programme that eases offenders back into the community -- will mean that Courtney can go out to work most days and return home in the evening to the jail.

He will clock in and clock out of the prison, but will spend his days in employment in the community.

"Courtney went up there from Loughan so he could do the Pace course and be allowed out to work -- the next-best thing to full release. He will be using the prison like a hotel," a source said.

"Loughan doesn't have the Pace course, so he had to move to do it.

"Only certain people are deemed suitable for Pace, and parole boards are impressed with those who have taken the course."

Partner Ms O'Neill is now living in Dublin with their little boy, so the transfer suited him for personal reasons too.

Courtney has been allowed out regularly on temporary release and was allowed home last Christmas. He was also allowed out on temporary release a number of times in 2009, which is when Ms O'Neill claims their child was conceived.

However, prison sources believe she became pregnant when Courtney was allowed out of jail to do the tuck-shop run to Sligo, where she was living at the time.

Courtney looks set for release around the time of the 20th anniversary of his victim's brutal death.

He admitted killing Ms O'Toole in August 1991, claiming at his trial that he was insane at the time because of post-traumatic stress disorder from his experiences while serving in the Lebanon. He was found guilty of murder and jailed for life in 1993.

His trial heard he got into Ms O'Toole's car after she stopped to ask him for directions in Dublin city.

Courtney, who had drunk 13 pints, claimed the 32-year-old blonde insurance worker told him: "I could get you done for attacking me if I went to the police. It would be only your word against mine."

He told gardai he "just blew a fuse and went mad".

He then beat the terrified woman until she became unconscious and drove her car to Mount Venus Road in the Dublin mountains.

He pulled into a gateway of a GAA club and, when she came to, he grabbed a rock and kept hitting her.

"I grabbed some type of rock and started hitting her on the head and face with it," he told gardai at the time.

Sunday Independent

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