Eight-year sentence for man who brutally beat 62-year-old to death
A Dublin man who admitted "brutally" beating a 62-year-old former rugby captain to death has been jailed for five years.
Gary Walsh (35), of The Watercourse, Orwell Park in Templeogue, had been charged with murdering Cathal Sweeney at a mutual friend's flat in Ashdale Gardens, Terenure, Dublin.
Following two trials in which juries could not agree a verdict, the State accepted his plea of guilty to manslaughter.
Passing sentence yesterday, Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy said the appropriate penalty for the crime would be 10 years, but taking into account his guilty plea he reduced that to eight.
He also suspended the last three years of the sentence, saying that Walsh appeared to have rehabilitated and has a future that holds out some degree of hope.
Walsh will enter a bond to be of good behaviour for those three years and must remain under the supervision of the probation services.
The judge said he believed Walsh's remorse was genuine and that reports handed to him showed that he was making progress, had taken responsibility for the killing and had quit drinking.
The court has previously heard from the victim's son, David Sweeney, who said he cannot stop thinking of his father drowning in his own blood with nobody to help.
He noted that his father had been an alcoholic, but said he was the only father that he and his siblings had.
Speaking outside court, David Sweeney said his father "wasn't perfect, but he was a good person". He added that he thought the sentence would have been longer but now the family wants to get on with their lives.
On the day of the killing, the accused and the deceased had met for the first time that morning in the flat of a mutual friend, who was also an alcoholic. They drank while watching Ireland play rugby.
The attack was prompted by an allegation of sexual impropriety against Mr Sweeney, for which the judge said there was no evidence. He said Mr Sweeney was a man of "very good character", extremely friendly and generous.
However, Mr Walsh punched him repeatedly until he said the victim admitted to the assault. Walsh stopped punching him because there was so much blood and then told Mr Sweeney to clean himself up.
Detective Sergeant Joe Molloy testified that Walsh later called paramedics after finding Mr Sweeney slumped over.
He said gardai found Walsh to be nervous when they arrived. He claimed that Mr Sweeney had been assaulted before arriving at the flat, but the other occupant told gardai otherwise, and Walsh then admitted beating him.
Det Sgt Molloy explained that a drinking session had been going on for some time, with Walsh consuming alcohol continuously for about 24 hours.
He said that a post-mortem examination found that the deceased had sustained fractures to his nasal and cheek bones, which would have compromised his ability to breathe. The resulting lack of oxygen would have caused brain injury.
David Sweeney's statement to the court was made on behalf of himself, his brother Tim, and sister Fiona.
"Our father was an alcoholic," he said. "We did not condone his way of life, but he was our dad. We only ever get one, and he was ours.
"Nothing can prepare you for arriving home to find the gardai at your house and them telling you that your father has been brutally beaten to death by a man half his age. A man younger than me."