Traveller murdered his sister while high on drugs
Gordon Deegan A 27-YEAR-OLD man was yesterday sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of his sister while he was high on drink and drugs.
Settled Traveller Robert O'Brien killed mother-of-three Elizabeth McCarthy (32) after a family wedding in September 2004.
On the fifth day of his trial at the Central Criminal Court in Ennis, O'Brien, of St John's Park, Castleisland, Co Kerry, changed his plea to guilty after Mr Justice Paul Carney ruled that evidence in which he had confessed to killing his sister was admissible.
The court was told the accused confessed to being high on drink and drugs when he murdered his sister at the The Quay, Blennerville, outside Tralee, on September 28, 2004.
In the absence of the jury, the court was told by four gardai that O'Brien said he killed his sister while high when giving evidence under oath at a bail hearing at Cloverhill Court, Dublin, in October 2004.
After Mr Justice Carney made his ruling that the evidence could be put before the jury, O'Brien - a married father of three children - changed his plea following three hours consultation with his legal team.
During the sentencing hearing last night, Robert and Elizabeth's father, Michael Snr, said: "None of the family bear Robert anger."
Mr O'Brien Snr told the court: "Whatever happened on that night, we will never know. Robert is heartbroken."
The father told the court that Elizabeth was the third of their 14 children he had lost. "We are trying now to get on with our lives. We have been going through hell and I am doing all I can to hold things together," Mr O'Brien said.
The court heard that O'Brien drove his sister to the Quay at Blennerville after they attended a cousin's wedding on September 28, 2004.
At the quay, O'Brien dumped his sister's body in the sea after beating her and strangling her.
The court was told Elizabeth was dead before she entered the water and died from mechanical asphyxiation, also suffering multiple blows to her head and body with over 100 separate injuries. Her body was found snagged on barbed wire across a tributary of the River Lee.
Garda Superintendent Pat O'Sullivan said O'Brien went missing after hearing Elizabeth's body was recovered.
Before he fled, O'Brien told Elizabeth's husband, Patrick, and other family members that he had dropped Elizabeth off at Southdock on the night she went missing.
O'Brien did not attend his sister's funeral and Supt O'Sullivan said he was arrested in Fermoy, Co Cork, on October 4 for suspected drink-driving.
During the course of subsequent interviews with Tralee gardai, he admitted to murdering his sister.
Counsel for the State, Diarmuid McGuinness, told the court the defence had planned to challenge the veracity of the statements.
In relation to O'Brien also being charged with the attempted rape of his sister on the same date, Mr McGuinness said the State would not be proceeding with that charge and the presumption of innocence remains undisturbed on that count.