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Home / News / Man found guilty of his 78-year-old uncle’s murder

Man found guilty of his 78-year-old uncle’s murder

A 34-year-old man has been found guilty of the murder of his 78-year-old uncle in what was described in court as a vicious and calculated assault.

Thomas Lorigan of no fixed abode had denied murdering John O’Neill at St Brendan’s Road in Lisdoonvarna Co Clare in January 2022.

A jury found him guilty after deliberating for more than six hours since Tuesday.

The trial was told Mr O’Neill had lived alone in the town having previously run a B&B with his late wife. Mr O’Neill was Thomas Lorigan’s uncle and had supported him and his family before Lorigan’s mother died.

A witness, Walter Burke, told the trial that on 6 January 2022 Lorigan who he knew as “Mossy” had been staying in his home the previous night and had been drinking with him. He said he sometimes offered him a place to stay, to eat or charge his phone because he was “down on his luck” and had no facilities where he was living at the time.

He told the jury that Lorigan left the house at some stage in the evening and when he returned said he had had a row with Mr O’Neill.

Mr O’Neill said the following day, Lorigan again mentioned the row and said it may have been more serious. Mr Burke said this led him to believe that John O’Neill may have been hurt and he decided to ring 999.

John O’Neill was found dead on the floor of his kitchen having suffered multiple blows to his head and face.

A garda who found him said he was so badly beaten he was “unrecognisable”.

John O’Neill was found dead on the floor of his kitchen having suffered multiple blows to his head and face

A pathologist told the trial the injuries were in keeping with multiple kicks, blows and stamping to his head. He had suffered blunt force trauma to the face with multiple fractures to the facial bones and a traumatic brain injury.

The jury was told that boots and jeans recovered from the house in which Lorigan had stayed the night before were blood stained and that DNA from Mr O’Neill was found on them. A mixed DNA profile from the inside of the boots contained a profile matching Lorigan’s.

The prosecution said the deceased man’s wallet and cash had not been stolen, suggesting the killing was “something personal”.

Prosecuting Counsel Eilis Brennan said key CCTV footage showed a person walking into Mr O’Neill’s B&B and that part of the assault which took place outside the premises had also been seen on CCTV before Mr O’Neill was dragged back into his house.

She said the accused the “prowled around the house” for over half an hour and was later seen leaving with something which could have been a box of alcohol found in Mr Burke’s house the following day.

Mr Burke said he did not believe it had been there before that day and he did not know where it came from.

Ms Brennan told the jury it was not known what the accused’s motive was or why he did what he did. But she said there was “a compelling picture of guilt” in the case and all the evidence pointed one way.

Thomas Lorigan, through his defence counsel had denied anything to do with the murder and denied he had told Walter Burke about any row with his uncle.

In closing arguments, Defence Counsel Michael Bowman said there was no evidence to support the prosecution’s contention that the killing was personal.

He said the main witness, Mr Burke, had his own difficulties with alcohol and was on the back of a binge and had got his dates and times confused about his interactions with Lorigan.

He said his client’s face was never visible on any CCTV and that the identification in the case was flawed. He said the prosecution had fallen short on a close analysis of the case and the jury should return a not guilty verdict.

The jury found him guilty by unanimous verdict.

Thomas Lorigan will be sentenced to the mandatory term of life in prison on the 19 February when the court will also hear victim impact statements.

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