Sunday 23 October 2016

Life sentence for man who stabbed to death ex-girlfriend's partner

James Connors at the Central Criminal Court
James Connors at the Central Criminal Court

A man who murdered his ex-girlfriend's partner when he should have been in jail serving a sentence for assault has been sentenced to life imprisonment.

James Connors (29) had pleaded not guilty to the murder of Jason Ryan (27) at Hollyville Heights in Wexford on January 25, 2012.

The victim's mother, Catherine Ryan, wrote a victim impact statement that was read to the court by counsel for the prosecution Lisa Dempsey BL.

"How do you describe what it's like to have your healthy, glowing son die because of the whim of another person?" she said. Ms Ryan added that she is trapped in her own "groundhog day" and that her family can never be as they were before Jason was killed.


She said she was angry that Jason's life was cut short by the "decision of another man" and her family's life had been turned upside down and inside out.

Ms Ryan also offered some words to James Connors's mother. "I empathise with Mrs Connors and I imagine it must be difficult for her too. But she will have her son and his future in her life. All I have from now to the end of my life are my memories and a plot of ground with a cold headstone."

Before sentencing, Detective Garda Colm Dunne of Wexford Garda Station gave evidence that Mr Connors had numerous previous convictions.

The most serious was a conviction in March 2009 at Wexford Circuit Court where he was sentenced to five years in prison for assault causing harm.

He was given Christmas leave for that offence in December 2011 but failed to return when his leave ended.

When he murdered Jason Ryan in January 2012, Connors was unlawfully absent from prison.

After 11 hours and 21 minutes of deliberations, the jury of seven men and five women at the Central Criminal Court found him guilty of murder by a 10 to two majority.

Sentencing Connors, Justice Margaret Heneghan said that she was imposing the mandatory sentence of life imprisonment.

She backdated the it by two years and three months to take into account time already served in prison before Connors - of Rosemount, Drinagh, Co Wexford - was granted bail.

The verdict came after two weeks of evidence.

During the trial, the jury was told that James Connors got up at 6pm on January 24 and had dinner with his then girlfriend Mary Connors at her house in Wexford town. After dinner he went to a house nearby and started drinking spirits before going to visit his cousin Jim Connors in Hollyville Heights.

Jim decided to go to his mother's house so James Connors had to leave. Instead of leaving the estate, however, Connors rang the doorbell of his ex-girlfriend Samantha Hore, who was at home with her then boyfriend Jason Ryan. It was shortly after midnight.


Mr Ryan, who was on the first floor, shouted down to Connors. Ms Hore told the trial that she heard him tell Connors to go away and called him a "red bastard". She said he then went back into the apartment, put on his running shoes, picked up a metal-studded baton that he had for protection, and went outside.

CCTV footage showed that it took 51 seconds for Mr Ryan to emerge. In that time Connors had walked away from the door and up a ramp to an area not covered by CCTV. Mr Ryan can be seen walking up the ramp before breaking into a run.

One witness said he saw him strike Connors twice with the bat. In the scuffle, Connors stabbed Mr Ryan five times. The source of the weapon, a long, brown-handled kitchen knife, was disputed.

Following the stabbing, Connors went back to his cousin Jim's apartment and eventually out to his uncle's home in Drinagh. He was arrested by gardai in the early hours.

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