Thursday 18 January 2018

'Knowing you could pass this person on the street is frightening' - Five years on, murdered dad mourned as suspects still at large

Murdered: James Cahillane was bludgeoned to death
Murdered: James Cahillane was bludgeoned to death
Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

Yesterday marked the fifth anniversary of the day Gary Cahillane buried his murdered father, James. It was also Gary's birthday.

Two suspects, a mother and son, have been arrested twice in the five years since James was killed at his home in Beaufort, Co Kerry - a sleepy, picturesque village at the foot of Carrauntoohil.

Gardai believe James knew his killer and say the answers remain in the local community. As suspects, the mother and son at the centre of the case faced intense questioning about James's death but were never charged with the killing.

Vital evidence is missing or was destroyed when the Cahillane home was burned to the ground after James was bludgeoned to death with a hammer.

A review of the case has been carried out by specialist gardai in Limerick and recommendations are now being followed up by a team in Killarney.

One of the suspects is already serving time for other offences.

Gardai are examining if James's death was the result of a botched break-in.

Gary said his family had been robbed of shared experiences and cherished memories. "At the moment it is part of life, trying to find justice and put the case to bed.

Read more: Tragic dad James Cahillane beaten, left to die in burning home for €100

"My sister, Lisa, has got married and had a daughter in the last two years so he has missed out on that as well as seeing his kids grow up.

"We have been robbed of so much."

Lisa said it is frightening that gardai say local people have a significant role to play in the ongoing investigation.

"Knowing you could pass this person on the street and not know who they are, or the fact it could happen in the local community again, is frightening"

On the night he was killed in April 2012, James left work in Killorglin at 5.30pm. He bought some groceries, took cash from an ATM and went to two local bars to watch Chelsea take on Barcelona.

He had separated from his wife a few years previously and, with his children now adults, was living alone in a rural community. At 10.50pm he got in a taxi and made the five-mile journey home. It was the last time he was seen alive.

About three hours later a neighbour was woken by her dog barking. She went to see what had disturbed him and noticed the flames from James's house.

As firefighters fought the blaze at the mouth of the Gap of Dunloe, they discovered his body in the hallway. The door was already ajar.

It was thought the father-of-two perished after being overcome by smoke in a fire - a tragic accident.

However, an examination by pathologist Margot Bolster uncovered severe injuries to his face and head. He had been murdered before the fire started.

"Getting the body back was delayed by the post mortem," said Gary, "but we certainly had a funeral planned for a man who we thought we had lost in a fire. It was a few days later before we found out what really happened."

Read more: Son and daughter pay tribute to loving dad as James is laid to rest

A hammer was found at the scene and injuries to Mr Cahillane's face and head showed a blunt force trauma. Gardai concluded he was beaten after foiling a burglary. It is unclear if the burglar was there before or after James arrived home.

Supt Flor Murphy said gardai are following several lines of inquiry locally and appealed for information. "Five years have passed so relationships, friendships, loyalties and associations may have changed in that time. Other areas of enquiry will continue and there are people in the local community that may have vital information."

However, the mother and son at the centre of the case remain crucial. He is due to be released from prison in the next two years.

Gary said: "The manner of it overshadows a lot of things. It is very hard to put that to one side and think about the man himself, your father and how much you loved him."

Sunday Independent

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