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Mother's emotional words close a tragic case

Charlotte Nolan sat through the trial of her son's killer, often shaking with barely suppressed emotion. On Friday, this emotion could be clearly seen as she read a victim impact statement on behalf of the family at the sentencing.

She spoke of the "happy, healthy, handsome, athletic and extremely popular young man" who had been celebrating his graduation from secondary school on the night he died.

Her voice shook as she told Mr Justice Paul Carney that the memory of seeing her beautiful son lying dead on a hospital trolley "is a memory that will haunt us for the rest of our lives".

Eighteen-year-old Finn Colclough was sentenced to 10 years in jail for the manslaughter of Sean Nolan on May 26, 2006. He was convicted after a nine-day trial in October this year.

During the trial the jury heard that Mr Nolan and two friends had been in the Waterloo Road area looking for a girl Mr Nolan knew, who he thought lived in the area. They met Colclough, who was out walking with some friends after spending the evening at a 21st party for a family friend.

The jury heard that Colclough had been drinking cocktails at the party and had smoked a joint with a friend on his return to the family home. Sean Nolan had also been drinking but the postmortem examination showed that he had only drunk a moderate amount.

There was general agreement between both sets of friends during the trial that Colclough and those with him had felt threatened and had run back into the Colclough house, locking the door behind them.

One of Sean Nolan's friends, Ciaran Wogan, told the trial that he had run up the front steps of the house and knocked on the door before running away again.

They stayed in front of the house, trying to open a bottle of wine they had bought at a petrol station earlier. They even gestured at Colclough and his friends that they needed a bottle opener.

Colclough had become very agitated. One of his friends had gone to find Colclough's older brother who was in another part of the house with his own friends. Alone in the kitchen that his mother, Alix Gardiner, used to run a cookery school, Colclough grabbed two large knives and ran out of the house waving them and shouting at Mr Nolan and his friends to go away.

Colclough ran out onto the pavement and stopped. Sean Nolan stepped up to him and pushed him. There was a short scuffle, then Mr Nolan hit Colclough around the head. Colclough pushed him away, but in doing so stabbed Mr Nolan with both knives.

Mr Nolan staggered back towards his friends before collapsing. He died a short time after being admitted to hospital.

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In her statement, Charlotte Nolan said her son had wanted to be a Garda like his older brother. She said he loved clothes and was extremely fussy about his appearance. He was extremely loyal and protective of his family, she said, and spoke of the effect his violent death had had on his two younger siblings.

"When they lost Sean they also lost something of their childhood innocence. They now realise that some nightmares are not imagined and don't end when they open their eyes."

Speaking after the sentencing Sean's father Michael Nolan told reporters that there should be no complacency when dealing with knife crime. "Anyone who produces knives to a situation should be fully held accountable for their actions."

During the trial the court heard that Colclough had suffered from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder since the age of nine. Dr Paul O'Connell, a forensic psychiatrist with the Central Mental Hospital in Dundrum, who gave evidence during the trial, told defence counsel Patrick Gageby during the sentence hearing that he had visited Colclough in prison.

He said that Colclough was remorseful for what he had done and he did not think he would reoffend.

He said Colclough appeared to be developing a depressive disorder but had shown no signs of a violent temperament. When a fellow prisoner had attacked him he had not fought back.

Colclough's mother Alix, told Mr Justice Carney that Colclough had written to the Nolan family solicitor a few days after the killing. He said he was "completely shattered and horrified by Sean's death" and while he knew they would never be able to forgive him he wanted them to know that he was truly sorry.

Mrs Colclough told the court that she also sent her condolences and sympathy to the Nolan family. "As a mother of two sons I cannot think of anything worse than losing a son."

Handing down his sentence, Mr Justice Carney said the production of the knives and Colclough's attempt to confront Mr Nolan had been so gratuitous that it warranted a 10-years sentence.

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