A drug user has been found guilty of murder after he stabbed a talented musician to death and then ordered heroin while his victim's body lay on the floor.
32-year-old Keith Brady of Cartron Estate, Sligo had denied murdering Martin 'Matt' Kivlehan on August 2 or 3, 2015 at Mr Kivlehan's home at New Apartments, Holborn St, Sligo. His plea of guilty of manslaughter was rejected by the Director of Public Prosecutions.
It took a jury of eight men and four women just one hour and 25 minutes to find him guilty of murder following a two-week trial at the Central Criminal Court.
It was Brady's third time on trial for the same offence. Previously a jury could not agree a verdict and a second trial collapsed after an RTE Prime Time programme aired opinions that the trial judge said were likely to have influenced the jury.
In a statement to the court today the victim's brother Christopher Kivlehan said there are no words to adequately describe what it is like to cope with the violent death of a loved one.
He said ill-health had made his brother an easy target - the trial heard that the deceased had an accident which damaged his leg and was "grossly intoxicated" at the time of his death.
In the months prior to his death he had been drinking heavily and had become weak.
Mr Kivlehan addressed a line of defence that was used in the previous trials but not in this one. In his previous trials Brady's legal team had argued that he was "provoked" after seeing Mr Kivlehan "touch up" his sister Janice Brady.
Mr Kivlehan said: "To see his beautiful character besmirched in headlines was cruel. We utterly reject and will never believe the suggested version of events that led to his death." He said Matt lived "at all times with respect for others".
He added: "Our dear brother was a gentleman and we have no doubt he was a gentleman to the time of his death."
He was, Mr Kivlehan said, a "pacifist who would go out of his way to avoid confrontation." The family, he said, have sleepless nights and "can only imagine how frightened he must have felt." He added: "We will never understand and will not forgive those responsible."
He remembered his brother as a man who "shared so much joy, laughter and love through his music, quick wit and kind nature. His life should never have ended the way it did."
Since Matt's death, the family has buried another brother, Padraic, who died of a heart attack. Mr Kivlehan said: "We have no doubt stress was a contributing factor in his death."
He concluded: "Whatever sentence is given will be nothing compared to the sentence our family has been given to bear for the rest of our lives."
Two years ago Janice Brady (29), with a last address at Maryville Hostel, Finisklin, Sligo, pleaded guilty to impeding the apprehension or prosecution of her brother, knowing or believing that he was guilty of a killing.
Following the guilty verdict Mr Justice Alex Owens thanked the jury and exempted them from further service for five years. He sentenced Brady to the mandatory term of life imprisonment, telling prison officers: "Take this man down please."
The sentence is backdated to November 24, 2016 when Brady first went into custody.
The jury heard that Mr Kivlehan lived alone at New Apartments in the centre of Sligo. He was, according to several witnesses, a talented musician and banjo player who had regular visitors to his home and a close relationship with his brother Christopher.
In the period prior to his death he had suffered ill-health after an accident that damaged his leg. Despite the efforts of his brother he had stopped looking after himself and was drinking heavily.
On the evening before his death he was last seen at around 10pm in a Mace store beside his home, where he had earlier that evening bought two bottles of cider. His body was discovered by one of his friends in his apartment the following morning or early afternoon.
A pathologist would say that he had suffered two stab wounds, one to either side of his neck. The stab wound to the right severed an artery and caused his death.
He was lying on his back when he was found and a brown-handled steak-knife on his chest was pointing to his neck, in what several witnesses said appeared to be a "staged" scene. His apartment had been ransacked and burnt tinfoil wrappers suggested someone had been smoking heroin. Brady was seen on CCTV in the area and gardaí arrested him later that day.
The defence argued that Brady was so intoxicated at the time of the stabbing that he was unable to form an intention to kill or cause serious injury.
In his closing speech to the jury Paul Murray SC for the prosecution said the accused was “well able” to make a myriad of other decisions before and after the killing that were “deliberate and intentional”. He told the jury Brady stayed at the scene in the aftermath of Mr Kivlehan’s death while a knife was placed next to the victim’s neck and a duvet put over him to make it look like suicide. Mr Murray said:
Mr Murray said there were two knives, the one found at the neck of Mr Kivlehan and a larger knife in the kitchen, which had the deceased's blood on it and which a pathologist said was most likely the one used to inflict the fatal wound.
The State Counsel told the jury that was evidence of a decision to swap the knives.
Mr Murray said Mr Brady made a decision “knowingly, deliberately, intentionally and consciously” to not leave after the death of Mr Kivlehan and to phone a drug dealer so he could get heroin brought to the house.
Cousel said the next day Brady intentionally changed the clothes he was wearing on the night of the killing but lied to gardai that he was wearing the same clothes.
Mr Murray said the accused was also able to make intentional decisions after he was arrested.
“He hadn’t ceased to be a heroin addict”, Mr Murray added.
Counsel told the jury he was capable of deciding to avail of questioning to be suspended; to refuse a swab test; to nominate a solicitor, request a doctor and say the doctor was wrong when he twice deemed him fit to be interviewed.
Mr Murray said that as a heroin addict within withdrawal, the accused was able to lie to gardai “time and time again”, telling them he didn’t kill Mr Brady.
Counsel for the State also said Brady was able to function and made “decision after decision after decision, deliberate, intentional decisions” before Mr Kivlehan was killed.
He was “well able” to make his way to several locations around town before going to Mr Kivlehan’s flat on August 3, 2015.
Counsel said Mr Kivlehan had mobility issues due to physical problems with his legs and a problem with alcohol. Mr Murray said evidence from toxicology results showed Mr Kivlehan had impaired reaction both mentally and physically on the night he was killed due to the level of alcohol in his system.
Mr Kivlehan was 5ft 5” and 60 years old while Mr Brady was 28 at the time of the killing and 5ft 11”, the jury were told.
Mr Murray said the evidence showed Mr Kivlehan stood no chance of survival whatsoever on the night of his death due to his level of intoxication, physical issues and the age and height deferential between the two men.
He said: “Individually but also collectively these show compelling evidence that Mr Brady on the night in question knew exactly what he was doing.”