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Cocaine user gets life for knife murder of man he met just 48 hours before

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Victim’s sister Deborah with parents Jacquelin and Michael.

Victim’s sister Deborah with parents Jacquelin and Michael.

Victim’s sister Deborah with parents Jacquelin and Michael.

People carrying knives while drinking and taking drugs are an "affliction in Irish society", a Central Criminal Court judge has said as she passed sentence on a man convicted of a cocaine-fuelled murder in a quiet Limerick pub.

Ms Justice Tara Burns yesterday sentenced Mark Crawford (43) for the murder of Patrick 'Pa' O'Connor (24), and said she had "no hesitation" in passing the mandatory life sentence for what she described as an act of "madness fuelled by drink and drugs."

She said that something has to be done about people carrying knives, adding: "A mixture of alcohol, cocaine and knives results in far too many deaths in this country."

Stabbed

Crawford, with an address at Quarry Road, Thomondgate, Co Limerick, was convicted last month by a unanimous jury verdict of the murder of Mr O'Connor at Fitzgerald's Bar on Sexton Street in Limerick City on July 7 or 8, 2018.

Crawford stabbed Mr O'Connor six times, with two wounds to the heart and neck causing his death.

It emerged during the trial that the men had met for the first time the previous day and had been taking cocaine together on July 7.

Tensions rose between the two men out of an argument over the drugs and Crawford claimed he was acting in self-defence, a claim that was rejected by the jury.

CCTV from minutes before the fatal stabbing showed the deceased dancing and laughing and joking with others in the bar where he was a popular regular.

Ms Justice Burns said that this footage, showing Mr O'Connor "acting as always, full of banter and chat," must have been the most difficult thing for the O'Connor family to watch.

She described Fitzgerald's as a quiet local pub where everybody seemed to know everybody and said the stabbing was a shocking thing for the regulars to have witnessed.

Mr O'Connor's sister Deborah O'Connor yesterday told the court that it is 818 days since her family last saw Patrick's face, "the last time we spoke, the last time we laughed together."

She described her brother as the kind of person everyone wanted to be friends with.

He got his jokes, kindness and love of banter from his mum and dad, she said, who are heartbroken at having buried their only son.

She added: "It was his welcoming, trusting and kindhearted nature that led to his murder, by a man he met less than 48 hours earlier."

Outside court Deborah told the media: "Little did we know on the morning of Saturday, July 7, 2018 it would be the last time we saw Patrick alive, the last time he would walk out the front door to never return.

"During the trial to learn of the horrific way Patrick died has been an incredibly distressing and difficult time for the family. To watch him on CCTV footage in the moments before he was murdered has left us heartbroken."

She said that while they will not get Patrick back the sentence gives some comfort.

Crawford's barrister Patrick McGrath SC read a letter to the court in which his client said he is sorry for what he has put the O'Connor family through and that he "never meant to kill him".

He added: "I regret it every single day. I know they wake up every day knowing Patrick is not here and I am so sorry for what I have done."

Gda Declan O'Donovan told the court that Crawford has previous convictions and is awaiting sentence for possession of €24,500 worth of heroin.