Sunday 17 December 2017

Teen charged with murdering father ‘texted friend for gun’

Aloysius 'Wishie' Hackett, who was found dead at his home in Tyrone
Aloysius Hackett's son Sean
Forensic officers at the scene

Michael McHugh

A YOUNG Gaelic football star accused of murdering his father has been granted compassionate bail to attend the funeral – and will be chaperoned by Tyrone manager Mickey Harte.

Sean Hackett, who is accused of killing his dad with a gun he obtained by texting a friend, claims he suffers from depression, a court has heard.

A detective told Omagh Magistrates Court that the 18-year-old initially denied involvement in the death of his 60-year-old father Aloysius, but later admitted: "I did it, I shot him".

The father-of-four was found dead lying in the back yard of the family home near Auger, Co Tyrone late last Friday night.

A defence lawyer told judge Bernie Kelly that the accused - last season's captain of the Tyrone gaelic football minor team - still had the full support and love of his mother Eilish, sister Aileen and two brothers Kevin and Conor, all of whom were in court for the remand hearing.

Ms Kelly granted the accused compassionate bail to attend his father's funeral under the strict condition that he is chaperoned by two volunteers, one of whom will be Tyrone GAA boss Mickey Harte.

His mother wept on a number of occasions in the public gallery. At one stage she and her children exchanged waves with the defendant in the dock.

The detective, who said she could connect Hackett to the charge, said that after initially telling police he found his father dead after coming back from a night out, the teenager later admitted shooting him.

After that confession Hackett remained silent for three subsequent days of questioning, she said.

He instead submitted a written statement to police in which he admitted involvement in an "incident" which resulted in the death of his father, a man he "loved very much", the officer said.

He also informed police that he has depression, she said.

Police have been unable to establish a motive, the detective said.

"We aren't aware of why this happened," she said.

Judge Kelly refused a standard bail application but granted compassionate bail for a number of hours to enable the accused to attend the requiem mass in Augher.

Mr Hackett has to be chaperoned by his lawyer Adrian O'Kane and Mr Harte, and will not be allowed to speak to anyone else including family members.

The Public Prosecution Service lodged an appeal against the judge's decision.

During the hearing Hackett, dressed in a blue and white striped shirt and blue jeans, spoke only to acknowledge that he understood the charge against him. He listened intently throughout, occasionally glancing at his family in the public gallery.

Like his son, Mr Hackett, known as Wishie, was heavily involved in the GAA community and was a former chairman of St Macartan's club in Augher.

The court heard that he was found lying face up in the back yard of the family home at Aghindarragh Road shortly before midnight last Friday.

The detective said the door of a nearby vehicle was open and he was still holding the keys in his hand.

Police first spoke to the accused at a neighbour's house.

The detective said Hackett told officers he had come back from a night out and found his father in the yard.

Later on that night police were called by a member of the household and were asked that they speak to Sean again, she said.

"When he was later spoken to he said 'I did it, I shot him'," the officer told the court.

In the period before the shooting the defendant twice texted a friend asking to borrow a gun, the detective claimed.

The first occasion was in late November/early December and the second was on New Year's Day.

The second time, Hackett told his friend he would have it back to him by the following Monday, the detective said.

Forensic tests have since been carried out on the shotgun.

"Police believe that was the weapon used," the detective told the court.

When the accused was searched in the wake of the murder two spent shotgun cartridges were found in his pocket.

Noting that Hackett did not speak during later police interviews, the detective outlined the contents of the statement he submitted to officers.

"It said he was involved in an incident that resulted in the death of his father which he loved very much."

Hackett also stated that he suffered from depression.

The detective objected to granting bail on the grounds that the accused may interfere with potential witnesses, could flee the jurisdiction or could commit further offences.

"He had asked on two occasions to obtain a firearm, so we can't be sure that something like that won't happen again," the detective said.

She also raised concerns about the accused's health and said he might need immediate treatment.

"He may be both a significant risk to both himself and others."

Applying for bail, Hackett's lawyer Mr O'Kane said it was a "tragic incident for everyone involved".

"He enjoys the full love of his family. His mother, his sister and two brothers are in court today," he stressed.

"It is the family wish that Sean would be released to attend his father's funeral tomorrow."

A psychiatrist is on stand-by to assess his client's condition, Mr O'Kane said.

He asked the police officer to confirm that the investigation was well progressed, with forensic, photographic and witness evidence gathered.

The detective agreed that it was "substantially progressed".

She also confirmed that police received the full co-operation of the local community during the investigation and that the defendant's roots are firmly in Augher.

Mr O'Kane then asked the detective if police knew that Hackett sought treatment before.

She replied that she was aware of a visit to a doctor in October last year.

The lawyer said his client, who he claimed was a talented sportsman involved in "everything" in his community, had no previous convictions.

"Police have never had occasion to speak to Sean Hackett or any family members (before)," he said.

The family want to see Hackett "properly cared for", Mr O'Kane said.

But Judge Kelly said it would be too big a risk to grant full bail.

"It seems there was a degree of planning in terms of acquiring a gun and as yet there seems to be no clear indication as to the rationale behind this," she said.

"On that basis I would be taking an exceptionally big risk releasing him on bail, given there's a possibility something like this could happen again given we don't know why it happened in the first place."

There is also the potential that the accused could interfere with witnesses, she agreed.

She did grant compassionate bail for around four hours to allow him to attend the funeral.

She told Mr O'Kane that he and Mr Harte had to take responsibility that her strict conditions would be adhered to. These include ensuring the defendant has no access to a mobile phone.

If anything went wrong, there would be serious professional ramifications for the lawyer, potentially affecting his ability to practice, the judge pointed out.

Hackett was remanded in custody to Hydebank Wood Young Offender Centre in Belfast for four weeks. He will be collected there by Mr Harte and Mr O'Kane at 10.45am tomorrow before the 12pm funeral in Augher.

Meanwhile, a 17-year-old boy arrested on Sunday by detectives investigating the crime has been released pending a report to prosecutors.

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