herald

Monday 24 July 2017

'Thought of dad drowning in his own blood haunts me' - son

Victim Cathal Sweeney
Victim Cathal Sweeney

The son of a 62-year-old man who was beaten to death has said the thought of his father drowning in his own blood with no one to help him continues to "haunt my mind".

David Sweeney was delivering his victim impact statement to the Central Criminal Court yesterday in the sentence hearing of Dubliner Gary Walsh (35), who pleaded guilty to the manslaughter Cathal Sweeney.

David Sweeney noted that his father had been an alcoholic, but said he was the only father he and his siblings had and his death had affected every aspect of their lives.

Walsh, of The Watercourse, Orwell Park, Templeogue, had been charged with murdering Mr Sweeney at a mutual friend's flat in Ashdale Gardens, Tere-nure. He was 31-years-old at the time. He had pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to the former rugby captain's manslaughter on February 8, 2014.

However, two separate juries were unable to reach a verdict and his manslaughter plea was eventually accepted.

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.

Punched

Walsh then punched the fath- er-of-three repeatedly to try to make Mr Sweeney admit to an assault that the accused believed he had committed on another man.

He had stopped beating him because there was so much blood and told Mr Sweeney to clean himself up.

Yesterday, David Sweeney entered the witness box to deliver the victim impact statement 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, nor the company he kept, but he was our dad. We only ever get one, and he was ours."

He said his father had died one day before meeting his third grandchild for the first time, adding that three more grandchildren had been born since then.

"They are now starting to ask about him and what happened to him. How do we ever explain that?" he said.

Mr Sweeney added that his father had loved his grand- children and it was important for the family for their children to know him.

"That has now been needlessly ripped away from us for ever. We can never forget or forgive that," he said.

He said his father had been a good, generous man who had been sociable to the extreme.

"It is very hard for us to accept or understand the circumstances in which he was taken from us in such a violent manner," he said.

Violent

"He was not a violent man. It has affected our marriages, our careers, our social lives.

"We have not been able to properly put our father to rest, and this is affecting the relationships we have with the people we love the most.

"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."

Mr Sweeney said he thinks of what happened to his father every day.

"The episodes haunt my mind," he said. "I cannot stop thinking about the fear he must have experienced on that day - the fear of being helpless, the fear of dying, the fear of going alone.

"The thoughts of him being unable to breathe, coughing and drowning in his own blood."

He said he had dreams of his father trying to call him and his brother to help him.

"I will never be able to get those images from my mind," he said.

"These, or the images of a vicious and relentless beating being carried out on my own dad, unable to defend himself."

Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy adjourned sentencing until next Monday and remanded Walsh in custody until then.

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