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Life for farmer who killed student for 'making pass at him'

A CLARE farmer has been sentenced to life in prison for murdering a 21-year-old student who he said made a pass at him.

Eoin Ryan's severely beaten body was found in a barrel in a field in Clare on June 7, 2011, after Joe Heffernan (33) called gardai to report that he had killed the devil.

At the Central Criminal Court yesterday, the victim's family paid tribute to the murdered man and said it was impossible to convey just how much he meant to them.

Eoin's brother, Daniel Ryan said: "It's every family's nightmare to lose someone they love in such horrendous circumstances; we now live that nightmare every day."

"Our world ended in June 2011. Each morning is begun with a jolt of pain as the memory of what happened to Eoin returns to us," said Mr Ryan.

"Days are to be endured and not enjoyed. We battle every day with questions that will never be answered and torment that will not cease," Daniel said.

BRUTALLY

"THE SAVAGERY OF WHAT HAPPENED TO EOIN IS SOMETHING THAT WE CAN NEVER, EVER COME TO TERMS WITH. EOIN'S LIFE WAS BRUTALLY ENDED THAT NIGHT AND SO MANY MORE WERE DESTROYED."

Heffernan of Cappagh Beg, Barefield, Ennis, had pleaded not guilty to murdering the Newhall law student at that address.

He told gardai that he had killed a man after he had come onto him, adding that the devil had been in this man's eyes.

The Central Criminal Court heard that Mr Ryan had sustained multiple injuries to his head and body and that his blood was found on a socket wrench at the scene.

The prosecution said that Heffernan's motive was his abhorrence with himself that he might be homosexual or have engaged in a homosexual act that morning.

The trial had heard that Mr Ryan was gay and that both men had left a pub together just hours before his death.

The defence asked for a manslaughter verdict, arguing that Heffernan's adjustment disorder following his father's death caused him to think he was killing the devil.

There was evidence that Heffernan believed he could bring his father back from the dead.

However a forensic psychiatrist, who interviewed him three times over the past two years, said he knew what he was doing was wrong.

Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy told the jury that they could reach one of three possible verdicts, none of which could be an acquittal.

He said the physical act was not in dispute and that the crux of the case lay in the defendant's state of mind. He said the defence was arguing for a verdict of manslaughter on two possible grounds, intoxication and diminished responsibility due to a mental disorder.

The seven women and five men spent just over six hours deliberating over three days before returning with a majority murder verdict of 11 to one.

hnews@herald.ie


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