Man (30) jailed for life for murder of Eugene Gillespie (67)
A 30-year-old Sligo man has been jailed for life for the murder of a retired telecoms broker.
Simon McGinley of Connaughton Road Car Park, Sligo had denied murder but admitted the manslaughter of Eugene Gillespie (67) on September 22, 2012.
He had pleaded guilty to the false imprisonment of Mr Gillespie and trespass to commit robbery at his home in Old Market Street on September 19, 2012.
The Central Criminal Court heard the manslaughter plea was not accepted by the State and a jury was sworn in for the trial, which commenced on March 25.
Mr Gillespie was a retired telecoms broker who also worked in the family shop and lived alone with his dog Tiny.
He had a passionate interest in antique cars and spent much of his time going to antique car rallies.
Mr Gillespie was found tied up in the hallway of his home in Old Market Street by his nephew and his brother, two days after McGinley assaulted him.
McGinley, who said he only knew the deceased to see, had called 999 the day after the assault to say a man was tied up in the house.
But gardai went to the wrong house and Mr Gillespie was not found until the following day after his partner and family became concerned that they had not heard from him.
Mr Gillespie died in hospital the following day after suffering a cardiac arrest and attempts to resuscitate him.
Today the jury of seven women and five men returned a unanimous verdict of guilty of murder after five hours of deliberation.
Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan sentenced McGinley to life imprisonment, backdating it to September 29, 2012 for time spent in custody.
He also handed down a 10-year sentence for the false imprisonment charge and seven years for the burglary to run concurrently with the life imprisonment.
McGinley made a 999 call to gardai the day after the assault saying a man was tied up in a house with brown gates.
Audio of the call was replayed to the jury and McGinley was heard saying, “across the road from the barracks over towards the brown gate, there's a man tied up in the house. Bye, bye."
McGinley had kicked in the gate to Mr Gillespie’s home and the court heard evidence he had made an attempt to kick in another door nearby.
He said he only went into the house to rob it and did not expect Mr Gillespie to be present.
In an interview he told gardai he punched Mr Gillespie with closed fists and tied him up before searching the house.
McGinley also told gardai he was drinking and taking ‘Japanese D10s’ that day.
He also said he owed a man €150 for diazepam.
McGinley told gardai he got in the gate of the house because “there was a tow bar at the bottom. I hacked it out of the way and pushed it in.”
He said he looked for money downstairs but did not find any so he went upstairs and got €60 in coins but no notes and went back to his caravan in Connaughton Road Car Park.
“I searched the house, thought I could find a few quid. I got some change. I walked out the front door. The clothes I had on me, I burned them that night.
I left it until the next day to ring the guards.”
Detective Sergeant Con Lee told the court the McGinley’s brother Hughie was shot dead in Sligo on May 28, 2005.
Dr Irene Tchun Ugbawa told the court she attended Sligo Garda station on September 28, 2012.
She said that McGinley was inconsolable, remorseful saying he did not intend to kill Mr Gillespie and that it was a robbery that went wrong.
She told Mr Keith O’ Grady BL defending that McGinley said he heard two voices in his head – one of his brother telling him to go into the police station and the other telling him to run away.
The doctor said McGinley told her one of his brothers had been shot in Sligo and about the affect that had on him.
McGinley also told her he felt someone was going to kill him and that he found it hard to get the image of Mr Gillespie out of his head.
The late Eugene Gillespie
Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis told the court the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head, face and neck.
The pathologist said the brain injury could have resulted from repeated blows or by being knocked to the ground or both.
He said the cause of death was bronchial pneumonia due to coma, due to severe blunt trauma to the head, face and neck.
Dr Curtis said ischemia of the hands, due to being bound, was a contributory factor.
There was a 7cm-long ligature mark on the neck area, which he said could be consistent with being made with a lace or a rope but was only applied to the front of the neck.
The pathologist told the court this neck injury could have contributed to the coma.
Nicholas Crellin who was the Acting Clinical Manager at Sligo General Hospital on September 22, 2012 gave evidence that Mr Gillespie was critically ill, very unstable and his resuscitation was ongoing.
He said Mr Gillespie had very severe swelling of the brain and his hands were black and grossly swollen.
Mr Crellin said the patient's face was swollen and he was covered in congealed blood.
“It was a horrendous sight to behold,” he said.
Detective Inspector Jim Delaney told the court that McGinley had 21 previous convictions for offences including assault causing harm, burglary and public order.
He told Mr Sean Gillane SC with Ms Dara Foynes BL prosecuting that the deceased was “a very well-respected man”.
A large number of Mr Gillespie’s family were in court for the trial including one who had flown in from south Carolina.
In mitigation Mr Blaise O’ Carroll SC defending submitted McGinley made the 999 call on Septmeber 20, 2012, that he co-operated with gardai and made full admissions.
He said his client was “truly sorry for what has happened.”
In a victim impact report on behalf of the family the victim’s niece Aisling Tinsley pleaded for more resources for gardai to protect those at risk in society.
“We as a family would like to use this opportunity to plead for more resources to be given to An Garda Siochana in their efforts to safeguard those at risk in this country who are under daily attack.
“The loss of Eugene and this security is insurmountable. Our homes will never be the same. Every day we walk up the street there is now a constant reminder of the savagery of his death.
“Since Eugene’s death we, as a family and as a community, feel more vulnerable in our homes."
“We do not want the awfulness of what happened to Eugene to get lost in this process for justice.
“Eugene’s tragic and brutal death shocked his beloved and heartbroken sisters Patsy and Elizabeth and his brother Brian and partner Joan. Brian unfortunately passed away a few short months after Eugene’s death.
“He along with his son Paul discovered Eugene in the hall on September 21st. The trauma he suffered as a result of this impacted in no small way on his demise. Brian couldn’t bear to be near the hall in Old Market Street where he found Eugene.
“How can we explain the sight of Eugene’s swollen, battered, torn body distorted by pain an fear? We did not recognise him in the hospital. His gentle soul was terrorised and savaged by so much anger and violence.
“We could still feel Eugene’s fear of this primitive savage attack as his breath was managed by the medical wires and tubes that swamped him.
“Eugene should not have suffered the death he got from an intruder while he sat in his kitchen, just having chatted on the phone and either thinking of his next project on his vintage car, or his elderly neighbours.
“There was no need to inflict those horrific injuries on Eugene for his generous nature would have meant that he would have given Simon McGinley the shirt off his back.
“Sligo was robbed by one of its true characters on the 22nd of September 2012 but his many and beautiful memories will always remain in our lives.”