herald

Sunday 17 December 2017

My heartbreak for man cleared of son's killing

THE mother of an Irish backpacker who died in a chip shop fight in Australia said that she has no ill will towards the man acquitted of his killing.

Gearoid Walsh (23) had embarked on a new life Down Under two years ago.

But just five weeks into his trip, he got into an argument with Tobias Simmons (30) outside a takeaway food shop in Sydney and was knocked out with one punch.

His family made the devastating decision to turn off his life support machine just one week later.

Heated

The court was shown CCTV footage of the incident outside the Yeeros Cafe in the suburb of Coogee in October 2009.

It was revealed that on the night in question, Mr Walsh had a heated exchange inside the takeaway, left with his brother Ciaran but later returned.

Mr Simmons, from the nearby suburb of Clovelly, pleaded not guilty to a manslaughter charge, saying he acted in self-defence.

After handing himself into police he faced a judge-alone trial before Judge Anthony Blackmore in the Downing Centre District Court.

In an emotional statement outside the court, Gearoid's heartbroken mother Tressa Walsh said that she would accept the verdict.

"I always said that if there was going to be a trial I would accept the decision of the court and I stand by that now," she said.

"We now go and celebrate the life that we had with Gearoid, and I hopefully continue the same pride in my children that I feel at the moment."

And Mrs Walsh, who travelled to Sydney with her family to hear the decision, earlier emphasised that she didn't want the Australian man to be jailed.

"I would really like to say that, as a mother, I really feel for this guy who got into a fight with Gearoid," the mother-of-five said.

"I am heartbroken for him because we don't blame him, we don't want him to serve time in prison. I think he was just very, very unlucky.

"We don't want him to torture himself over this, we don't see it as a murder, Gearoid was very tall, he was 6ft 2in; he had a long way to fall.

"Even though Gearoid is a big guy, he wasn't a fighter at all," she added.

Gearoid and his brother Ciaran had travelled from Brisbane to Sydney for their sister Aoife's 22nd birthday.



Devastated

They had been drinking in a number of hotels and bars in Coogee, an area on Sydney's eastern beaches popular with Irish backpackers, before the pair went for some fast food around 11pm and the tragic incident occurred.

Ms Walsh said that she lost her husband five years ago and they were devastated to lose "an adored son, brother and uncle".

"I can't describe how devastated myself and Gearoid's brother, and sisters and nieces are but sadly our lives will never be the same without Gearoid," she said.

clairemurphy@herald.ie

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