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Monday 24 April 2017

'He broke our family' - anger at killer's radio apology

Winifred Fox, mother of 23-year-old John Fox, who was stabbed to death in Sligo in 1987. Photo: Liam Burke/Press 22
Winifred Fox, mother of 23-year-old John Fox, who was stabbed to death in Sligo in 1987. Photo: Liam Burke/Press 22

The family of stabbing victim John Fox say they are unmoved by an apology from his killer on live radio.

"I lost a piece of myself that night too," Richard Kelly (49), who was 19 when he stabbed John Fox (23) in 1987, said on the national airwaves yesterday.

"I wake up in the morning and think of him and his mum and brothers."

Kelly, from Sligo town, had been with a group of local youths when he said there was a confrontation with another group of young men, including Mr Fox, on a weekend visit to Sligo from Roscrea, Co Tipperary.

"I can't undo what happened but if I can stop one young man from carrying a knife it would be worth it," said Kelly on RTE Radio One's Liveline.

But Mr Fox's brother Declan (50) told the Herald he took away his dreams.

"It took him 30 years to apologise. He said he took responsibility for what he did. But he stabbed my brother in the back, which was a very cowardly act," he said.

"If he thinks he's rehabilitated, fair enough, but he took my brother's life.

"He took away his dreams of a future in which John could have married and had a family.

"All of John's dreams are lying with him in a cold grave."

The victim's mother, Winifred Fox, said the killing had destroyed her family.

"I hope no one else will ever have to go through what our family went through. When he killed John, he broke our family," she said.

She advised anyone who lost a loved one through violence to contact the victim support group Advic.ie.

Kelly claimed he was carrying the knife he had bought to go hunting and fishing with his dad when he and friends became embroiled in an argument with another group of young men.

Suffered

However, Declan Fox said: "I also used a knife for hunting but I never brought it with me when I went into town for a drink."

Kelly had never met his victim before. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison for manslaughter and was released after six-and-a-half years.

On the 30th anniversary of John's death last month, Declan went on Liveline to say Kelly never contacted them and that the entire Fox family had suffered greatly.

Kelly told Liveline host Joe Duffy yesterday that he was still living with the crime.

"I did not want to cause any more distress to Mrs Fox or her family," he said when asked about why he had not contacted the family.

"I miss him. I know I took a piece of humanity that night."

Kelly said he was an "uneducated and extremely careless" at the time.

He said he was intoxicated on the night but can't remember if he had taken drugs.

"We were having a laugh on our way home when we got into an argument with another group of lads and yes, unfortunately that's what happened. And sadly a lad lost his life because of my actions," he added.

Kelly said he couldn't remember what happened on the night but he did recall the moment he learned that Mr Fox had died.

"I saw the blood after it but I didn't realise that the young lad had been stabbed," he said, insisting it was not murder.

Kelly was arrested a short time later.

"One of the police officers put his head around the door and coldly as this he said, 'you're f**ked now Kelly, that young lad is dead'."

He also spoke candidly about how he thinks victims' families should have a greater say in sentencing and that remission should be earned by prisoners, not given.

"There's not a day I don't think of his mum, a very strong woman with a dignified family," he said.

"I sat in court and looked at John Fox's mum crying - my heart went out to that lady.

"I seen her son and her daughters sitting there, very strong people even though they could have been very vindictive towards me.

"I was looking at that lady and was thinking about how a couple of months before I had lost my own mum and now she had lost her son because of me, it's a very hard thing to live with."

Kelly had been convicted of breaking and entering before the killing.

After he was convicted of manslaughter, he served time in several prisons, including Mountjoy, Wheatfield and Portlaoise.

"Prison is four walls. It affected me in my mind, I'm still doing my life sentence," he said.

"I'm not trying to equate it to the Fox family's life sentence but I want them to know I haven't forgotten their brother, I wish he was still here.

"Nobody sets out, I think, to take someone else's life.

"The sentence never mattered to me, the incident and that young lad losing his life is what mattered.

Lucky

"I would sit in prison and hear people give out about getting caught and doing their sentence and I would think how lucky."

He added: "I was to do that sentence because there was a young lad who was gone because of me. I would have done 20 years if I could have reversed it."

Kelly also pleaded with people to think before they act, particularly when alcohol is involved.

"You're not thinking properly when you're consuming alcohol to excess - that's when many of the issues involved start," he said.

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