The Cork man who shot his friend dead while messing around with a shotgun had photographs of himself with the gun and wearing ammunition belts in the style of the poster for the war movie Platoon.
Trevor O’Gorman, aged 44, of Sarahville Place, Pouladuff Rd, was sentenced to three years with the last two years and three months suspended at Cork Circuit Criminal Court for the manslaughter of Diarmuid Byrne, aged 41, at Mr Byrne’s home at Plunkett Road in Ballyphehane on April 26, 2016.
Detective Sergeant Martin Canny said that one of O’Gorman’s first comments to gardaí was: “He told me to shoot him. I didn’t know it was loaded. I thought it was going to be a joke.”
The Platoon-style photographs of O’Gorman taken the day before the fatal shooting were found on the defendant’s phone.
Det Sgt Canny said Mr Byrne had been admitted to hospital two months earlier after trying to take his own life by an overdose.
James O’Mahony, defending, said O’Gorman had been drinking and his accounts across five interviews left the gardaí not knowing what precisely happened.
Det Sgt Canny said: “Ballistics tell us that Trevor O’Gorman fired the firearm, the barrel was close to the deceased’s head. From blood spatter examination the deceased was holding the muzzle end of the barrel with his left hand and his right hand was over his left hand.”
Questioned about stating at one stage that Mr Byrne told him to shoot him, O’Gorman denied that and said there had been some banter.
Mr O’Mahony said there was no question of assisted suicide or anything like that, and that it happened in the moment of a lot of messing.
“This was a devastating tragedy. This is a unique case. We have never come across a case of two adults playing with a shotgun in the bedroom of one of them both on the day and the day before. The accused did not load the gun and this crazy, totally unexpected thing happened.”
There were two more cartridges loaded in the shotgun and Mr O’Mahony said that DNA suggested Mr Byrne had loaded them.
Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin said of O’Gorman’s role: “He pulled the trigger when he had the gun pointed at someone’s head. That is what happened when you scale it all back and boil the skin off the onion.”
The judge asked to see the shotgun, examining it during the sentencing hearing. O’Gorman wept when the gun was produced.
Mr O’Mahony said it was stupidity on O’Gorman’s part to do what he did. The judge disagreed: “Stupidity would not account for it. Nobody who went inside the door of Collins barracks or the naval base (O’Gorman had navy training as a young man) would point a gun at anyone. This man was trained. That training never leaves you.
“I accept what Mr O’Mahony says, that it was an absolute tragedy. A man is dead. His family are devastated. It happened in circumstances that are horrendous for them.
“At all stages this was a case of recklessness. He never intended to shoot the deceased. What he did has to be viewed through the prism of recklessness.
“This is a person who played and pointed a gun in a house in a bedroom and put it so close to another man’s head and pointed it. The other man had his hands on the barrel. This was not a young man who never used a gun before. He was socially drunk. That is not an excuse.
“He and the other man were playing with the gun the day before. I don’t think there is anything malicious when it occurred. He called the guards. The accused has no relevant previous conviction. I don’t believe he is a risk to society.”
The judge imposed a sentence of three years with the last two years and three months suspended.
Mr Byrne, a single man, died instantly after he suffered a gunshot wound to the head from his legally held shotgun while in an upstairs room of his family home on the day in question.
Dr Margot Bolster, the assistant State pathologist, previously told an inquest that Mr Byrne died from severe cerebral trauma from multiple lacerations to the brain, including to the brain stem, due to a gunshot wound to the head.
‘Circumstances have added to our devastation’
Victim impact statement by Diarmuid Byrne’s sister, Ber Lyons:
On the 26th of April 2016, at the age of 41, our brother Diarmuid’s life was taken all too soon in what should have been the safe sanctuary of our family home.
We come from a family of seven siblings, with Diarmuid being the youngest. Words cannot express the larger-than-life personality that Diarmuid was. He was witty, charming, extremely hard working, and so full of life. Diarmuid was popular with friends, neighbours, and work colleagues alike. He was a fantastic friend to all who knew him and a generous man beyond measure.
On the 26th of April 2016 our lives were changed forever. To lose someone you love so suddenly is heart-breaking and to lose him under the circumstances that we did has only added to our devastation. Our family feels so empty without Diarmuid’s infectious spirit and tremendous heart.
Prior to Diarmuid’s unlawful killing we were a private family. Suddenly our lives were plunged into the public domain and our family home, where we all lived, loved, laughed, and played, became the place where Diarmuid’s life was taken. One of the most difficult things for us was going to the house afterwards knowing that this was where Diarmuid had died, imagining what had happened, how he felt, wishing that we could be there for him, that we could hold him and tell him how much we love him.
We are devastated that we will never get the chance to see Diarmuid or speak to him again. We miss him so much we can’t help but think of the future and all that he won’t get to see, the family events and friends’ lives that he will not be part of.
As his family, our joy and enthusiasm for life has been shattered and we struggle to deal with the loss of Diarmuid every day. This loss is only magnified by the way in which he died too young and too soon. We hope that we can find some peace of mind to move forward while keeping Diarmuid’s memory alive.
We pray that justice will bring peace and closure to us and to our families who continue to shoulder the burden of our struggles and heartbreak. Our only comfort now is that our beautiful brother Diarmuid is resting in the arms of our loving parents in heaven.
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