A Dublin man was today jailed for four and a half years after pleading guilty to killing his younger brother.
Derek McGrath (36), Fortlawn Park, Blanchardstown, had pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of brother Anthony (23) at Whitestown Walk, Blanchardstown, in October 2006.
Delivering his sentence, Mr Justice Paul Carney said: “This is the fourth case of fratricide which I’ve had within a short space of time.
“These cases tend to arise from an alcohol-fuelled row between loving members of a family. These cases are particularly difficult both for the accused and for the family concerned.
“In this case, the family who are also the victims, asked me to consider a moderate sentence on the basis of having lost one son they do not want to lose another to a long prison sentence.
“I have to balance that consideration against the ruling of the Chief Justice that not only does voluntary consumption of alcohol and drugs afford no defence, but also affords no mitigating factors against responsibilities in society.”
Det Sgt Liam Kelly told the Central Criminal Court trial that, in the hours leading up to the killing, both brothers had been at a family christening and guests said that they were “getting on very well”.
“They had a normal brother relationship,” said Det Sgt Kelly.
Anthony went home ahead of Derek after inviting him and a friend, Joe Larkin, to his house to have some food.
Derek had been drinking for two days – he had been at a 40th birthday party on the Friday night and, during the christening that Saturday, had drank 12 pints, as well as consuming cocaine and valium.
Anthony and Joe Larkin were in the kitchen preparing food when a disagreement developed between them about Anthony’s ex-girlfriend. She had moved out of Anthony’s house 10 months previously because of his “temper” and had gone to stay at Joe Larkin’s – a fact that was concealed from Anthony.
Derek went into the kitchen and attempted to break up the row, but an argument broke out between him and Anthony. Larkin, who had left, returned when he heard the disturbance. He saw the brothers scuffling and separated them.
Anthony left the house. It appeared to Larkin and Derek that the disturbance had ended but, as they were leaving, Anthony had retrieved a hatchet from his van outside. He “swung the hatchet at them” and, in trying to get at his brother, he “struck Larkin on the forehead”. Larkin pushed Anthony out the door.
Derek then went into the kitchen and got two knives. Meanwhile, Anthony and Larkin were in the garden. Larkin had fallen on top of Anthony. When Larkin got up, he saw Derek, with a knife in each hand, scuffling with his brother.
When gardai arrived they found Derek crouched over his brother, holding his head.
He then put his head between his knees and was muttering and shouting. He kept saying “sorry” and “God let him live”, asking if his brother was going to be OK and that he didn’t mean for it to happen.
Anthony died of a single stab wound to the neck. A victim impact statement written by his and Anthony’s mother, Rita McGrath, was read out to the court. It said that her life “changed forever”.
“It was the most horrific thing that ever happened... and is worse because of Derek’s responsibility. A part of her died after. Anthony was a son any mother would have been proud of. She was so proud of his achievements. He was loved by all his family, including Derek.”
Mrs McGrath wrote that Derek “has many difficulties in his life” and that she “knows he is traumatised”.
She “wants justice for Anthony and knows that Derek has to be punished, but she does not want to lose another son through a long prison sentence.”
The court also heard that their father had chronic alcohol problems and Derek had acted in the place of their father, looking after his two younger brothers.