*The scene in Lisdoonvarna in January 2022. 

A 34 year old has been found guilty of murdering his 78 year old uncle in Lisdoonvarna.

A Central Criminal Court jury found that John O’Neill was murdered by his nephew Thomas Lorigan. The jury had been deliberating for six hours since Tuesday.

Thomas Lorigan, of no fixed abode had pleaded not guilty to murdering John O’Neill at St Brendan’s Road, Lisdoonvarna, Co Clare on a date unknown between January 6th and 7th 2022.

Members of the jury agreed with the prosecution case that the prosecution case that Thomas Lorigan was the man who was caught on CCTV delivering calculated and “well-aimed” kicks as widower John O’Neill lay helplessly on the ground outside his home.

The trial was told Mr O’Neill had lived alone in the town, having previously run a B&B with his late wife. Mr O’Neill was Lorigan’s uncle and had supported him and his family before Lorigan’s mother died.

A witness, Walter Burke, told the trial that on 6 January 2022 that Lorigan, who he knew as “Mossy”, had been staying in his home the previous night and had been drinking with him. He said he sometimes offered him a place to stay, to eat or charge his phone because he was “down on his luck” and had no facilities where he was living at the time.

He told the jury that Lorigan left the house at some stage in the evening and when he returned said he had had a row with Mr O’Neill.

Mr Burke said the following day, Lorigan again mentioned the row and said it may have been more serious. Mr Burke said this led him to believe that Mr O’Neill may have been hurt and he decided to ring 999.

Mr O’Neill was found dead on the floor of his kitchen having suffered multiple blows to his head and face. A garda who found him said he was so badly beaten that he was “unrecognisable”.

A pathologist told the trial the injuries were in keeping with multiple kicks, blows and stamping to his head.

Mr O’Neill had suffered blunt force trauma to his face with multiple fractures to facial bones and a traumatic brain injury.

The jury was told that boots and jeans recovered from the house in which Lorigan had stayed the night before were blood stained and that DNA from Mr O’Neill was found on them. A mixed DNA profile from the inside of the boots contained a profile matching Lorigan’s.

The prosecution said Mr O’Neill’s wallet and cash had not been stolen, suggesting the killing was “something personal”.

Prosecuting Counsel Eilis Brennan said key CCTV footage showed a person walking into Mr O’Neill’s B&B and that part of the assault which took place outside the premises had also been seen on CCTV before Mr O’Neill was dragged back into his house.

She said the accused “prowled around the house” for over half an hour and was later seen leaving with something which could have been a box of alcohol found in Mr Burke’s house the following day.

Mr Burke said he did not believe it had been there before that day and he did not know where it came from.

Ms Brennan told the jury it was not known what the accused’s motive was or why he did what he did. But she said there was “a compelling picture of guilt” in the case and all the evidence pointed one way.

Lorigan, through his defence counsel, had denied anything to do with the murder and denied he had told Mr Burke about any row with his uncle.

In closing arguments, Defence Counsel Michael Bowman said there was no evidence to support the prosecution’s contention that the killing was personal.

He said the main witness, Mr Burke, had his own difficulties with alcohol and was on the back of a binge and had got his dates and times confused about his interactions with Lorigan.

He said his client’s face was never visible on any CCTV and that the identification in the case was flawed. He said the prosecution had fallen short on a close analysis of the case and the jury should return a not guilty verdict.

The jury found Lorigan guilty by unanimous verdict.

Lorigan will be sentenced to the mandatory term of life in prison on 19 February when the court will also hear victim impact statements.

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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