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O'Gorman family's grief as killer is sentenced

Wednesday, 22nd February, 2012 5:34pm

Story by Tom Kelly

A relative of Athlone man Martin O'Gorman, who was fatally injured in an assault in Navan in 2010, has spoken of the pain and sense of loss his family felt as a result of the 63-year-old's unlawful killing.

The comments were made after Jonathan Smith (19) was last week sentenced to five years in prison for the unlawful killing of Mr O'Gorman, who lived at Battery Road in Athlone.

Mr Smith assaulted the deceased late at night on June 21, 2010 and he died from his injuries a week later.

In court last week, the defendant apologised to Mr O'Gorman's family and said "I did not intend to kill him."

However the victim's nephew, Diarmuid O'Gorman, said the apology was too late and meant nothing to the family.

Mr O'Gorman said his uncle was a quiet, unassuming gentleman who had been devoted to his mother and whom they loved and now missed desperately.

He said the family felt great anger towards his attacker who, they believed, had not shown any remorse.

"When I received the phone call to say my uncle had been found in an unconscious state, my life changed forever," Mr O'Gorman said.

"Not only was there the horror and anguish of the violent assault, but we watched for a week as he fought for life and had to wait 21 agonising days after this death to lay him to rest."

Commenting during the defendant's sentencing, Judge Michael O'Shea said Martin O'Gorman was a decent, wonderful, caring person.

Jonathan Smith, with an address at Windtown, Navan, pleaded guilty to the unlawful killing of Mr O'Gorman, who died on 27th June 2010 from injuries received in the assault on 21st June that year.

Judge Michael O'Shea backdated the sentence to January of last year when the defendant first went into custody.

The 19-year-old defendant apologied to his victim's family in court. He said he had not stopped punishing himself and replayed the incident in his head every day.

"I did not intend to kill him," he said.

After the hearing, the victim's nephew, Diarmuid O'Gorman, said the apology had come too late and meant nothing to the family.

He added that the family was satisfied with the result and thought the judge summed up their uncle very well.

Giving evidence in court on behalf of his family, Mr O'Gorman described his uncle as a quiet, unassuming gentleman who had been devoted to his mother and whom they loved and now missed desperately.

He said the family felt great anger towards his attacker who, they felt, had not shown any remorse.

He said his uncle had gone to school at Gormanston College and had worked in the Meath area and considered himself an adopted son of Navan,

"When I received the phone call to say my uncle had been found in an unconscious state, my life changed forever," Mr O'Gorman added. "Not only was there the horror and anguish of the violent assault, but we watched for a week as he fought for life and had to wait 21 agonising days after this death to lay him to rest," he recalled.

Detective-Sergeant Thomas Flynn told the court that Jonathan Smith and a third party had attended a barbecue at the weir on the Boyne on June 21 2010. They left around midnight and were walking up Academy Street when they met two people they knew from school and walked with them.

Det-Sgt Flynn said the other two youths were unnerved by the fact that the accused and the third party were intoxicated and walked on to get away from them.

"A short distance further up, they encountered the deceased walking in the opposite direction," said witness.

One of the other two youths said he heard shouting and recognised it was the accused and the person with him. A taxi driver driving on Academy Street saw people on the road. He slowed up and saw someone lying on the road and two people running away. He realised the man was injured and called an ambulance.

The court heard a resident of the street had overhead shouting and an altercation and somebody shouting "I'll kick you up the street." And then someone shouting "wake up" or "get up".

Judge O'Shea was told Martin O'Gorman never regained consciousness and was pronounced dead on June 27.

Det-Sgt Flynn said a report by the Assistant State Pathologist, Dr Michael Curtis, showed that there were three bruises to the deceased's face, which indicated he had received three blows.

Dr Curtis's report said the injuries were consistent with a blow knocking him to the ground and the back of his head hitting off the ground. He said the cause of death was pneumonia as a result of his comatose state due to head injuries.

Det-Sgt Flynn said that, when interviewed, the defendant said he had hit the victim once. "He accepted he crossed the road to meet the deceased," he said.

Judge O'Shea heard that the defendant said he had thought Mr O'Gorman was around 35 years old.

He had asked Mr O'Gorman for a cigarette and had "closed off his space". Mr O'Gorman pushed him out of his way and then the defendant hit him.

Det-Sgt Flynn said Smith was adamant that he only struck one blow. He added that the defendant had been very drunk on the night.

He said Mr O'Gorman had followed his usual routine on the night after a match. He went to one or two public houses in Navan where he discussed Meath football and was then walking towards a petrol station for a cup of tea and a sandwich before embarking on his journey home.

Mr O'Gorman, who was 63, lived at Battery Road in Athlone and had a lifelong interest in Meath football, added Det-Sgt Flynn.

The court heard the defendant had one previous conviction for criminal damage.

Det-Sgt Flynn agreed with Derek Kenneally, SC, that, on the eight occasions the defendant was interviewed, he was adamant he had only struck one blow.

He agreed that a garda colleague had asked the defendant if he intended to seriously injure or kill Mr O'Gorman, and he said 'no'.

Witness told Mr Kenneally the defendant told his colleague he felt sick and couldn't get the assault or its consequences out of his head. The court also heard he was fully co-operative with the gardai.

Mr Kenneally said the defendant had been 18 when he committed the offence and hadn't intended to kill Mr O'Gorman, who died as a result of striking his head off the ground.

"No weapon was used and no blow was struck when he was on the ground," he added.

Mr Kenneally said the defendant had been a juvenile boxer until the age of 14 or 15, but hadn't boxed since then.

Judge O'Shea said Mr O'Gorman had been a decent, wonderful, caring person interested in all aspects of life. "It is shocking that he could not walk home in safety without being confronted and obstructed in the way he was. He was in a vulnerable and isolated position," he said.

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