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Key Melanie witness stole e18k jewellery

A CRIMINAL who was present when tragic teenager Melanie McCarthy was shot dead raided the house of an elderly woman in Sligo a month later.

State witness Sean Byrne (20) – who was friendly with Melanie's boyfriend – was given a community service order for the break-in, on top of a suspended jail sentence he received last week for his role in a separate high-speed chase .

TRAUMA

His lawyer told Dublin Circuit Court that Byrne had behaved in a very uncharacteristic way as a result of the trauma of seeing his friend shot dead in front of him as they sat in a car.

Tallaght man Byrne drove Melanie to the hospital but she died from her injuries.

Byrne then turned to drink and drugs and was staying at a Travellers' encampment in the weeks after, as a result of shots being fired at his family home.

Just a day after getting the suspended sentence at Dublin Circuit Court, Byrne appeared at Sligo District Court to face separate charges before Judge Kevin Kilrane.

The court heard that, on March 20, 2012, Byrne had travelled to Co Sligo, breaking into the home of an elderly widow.

The house at Lackagh, Drumfin was vacant at the time and Byrne made off with jewellery valued at €18,000.

Byrne's defence barrister, David Whelahan said Byrne had suffered chronic post traumatic stress disorder. "A 15-year-old female was shot dead in his car. He drove her to the hospital and he suffered badly because of what he witnessed," said Mr Whelahan.

Byrne will be a State witness in the trial of two men charged in connection with the murder.

Mr Whelahan said Byrne had to a large extent overcome the trauma he suffered.

He was no longer using alcohol or drugs, as he was when he committed the burglary.

Mr Whelahan said Byrne received warnings from the Gardai in 2011 warning him his life was in danger.

He fully acknowledged the gravity of the burglary at the home of Mrs Heaver.

No offences had been committed since March last year, he pointed out.

Byrne wanted to qualify as a fitness coach, his lawyer said.

kfoy@herald.ie


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