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Man who bludgeoned two elderly brothers to death is jailed for life


Killer Alan Cawley.

Killer Alan Cawley.

Killer Alan Cawley.

A man has been sentenced to life in prison for the double murder of two elderly brothers with special needs. He bludgeoned them to death with a shovel and one of their walking sticks in their home.

Alan Cawley (30), of Four Winds, Corrimbla, Ballina, Co Mayo, had admitted killing Thomas Blaine (69) and John (Jack) Blaine (76) on July 10, 2013, at New Antrim Street in Castlebar.


Jack Blaine.

Jack Blaine.

Jack Blaine.

However, he had pleaded not guilty to their murder, arguing that he had three mental disorders which had diminished his responsibility and that he was therefore entitled to a manslaughter verdict.


The Central Criminal Court heard that Tom Blaine had schizophrenia and his brother had dementia, a tremor and a severe hunch in his back.

Both brothers also had speech impediments and were under the care of the HSE. A home help called to visit them three times a day.

Cawley had been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other disorders as a child.


An old picture of Tom Blaine. Photo: Frank McGrath

An old picture of Tom Blaine. Photo: Frank McGrath

An old picture of Tom Blaine. Photo: Frank McGrath

He had also been diagnosed with two personality disorders as an adult, was often on heavy medication, had developed a dependence on alcohol and prescription drugs and was in and out of both hospital and prison.

He was released from Castlerea prison four days before the killings and provided with B&B accommodation in Castlebar. He bought a bottle of wine at around 5pm on July 9 and was seen drinking in pubs.

Witnesses described him as behaving like a "crazy" person.

CCTV footage showed him walking through the town and crossing paths with Jack Blaine around midnight. A barman also noticed a young man interacting with Jack Blaine but thought he was helping him across the street.

The young man was Cawley, and CCTV captured him entering the Blaine house, with Jack Blaine following behind him.

Cawley told gardai he had spent about 20 minutes upstairs, searching for prescription drugs. He found nothing.

He went back downstairs and, he told gardai, that this man, who the court heard was incontinent, was rubbing his genitals.

Cawley claimed he thought the deceased was trying to make a sexual advance. He picked up a shovel and beat the man.

He then made his way to the front door, but saw another man in bed in a room at the front of the house.

Cawley said he thought that as the men were living together, they might be child molesters. He hit the second man with a stick about 25 times.

He then thought that pouring boiling water over the first man's genitals would be a "fitting punishment", so he turned on the kettle, waited for it to boil and then poured the contents over his victim.

The home help arrived at 7.15am. Describing the deceased brothers as "two absolute gentlemen", she told the court she got no response when she called out.

She entered Tom Blaine's bedroom and found him lying in a pool of blood on the floor. She ran out of the house screaming and raised the alarm before going back inside to look for Jack Blaine.


She eventually found him lying covered in blood in the back doorway.

Cawley's lawyers raised the partial defence of diminished responsibility, which can reduce murder to manslaughter.

Mr Justice Paul Coffey told the jury that, for that to happen, there had to be evidence that the accused was suffering from a mental disorder and that such a disorder must have substantially diminished his responsibility for his acts.

If they were satisfied of the defence on the balance of probabilities, they must return a verdict of not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter. The judge explained that, if not satisfied, they should find the accused guilty.

The four women and eight men were not satisfied and returned a unanimous verdict of guilty on both counts.