A homeless man has been sentenced to life in prison for murdering a father of one, whose body he then set on fire in a Dublin park.
Ciaran Moran, aged 29, who is currently in jail for another killing, beat his victim over the head with a lump hammer. He photographed him and amputated his toe after murdering the 36-year-old from Tallaght, whom he knew was of considerable means.
The Central Criminal Court heard that Gerard Donnelly, an only child, owned two houses and had almost €150,000 in cash and savings at the time of his death. However, he suffered from an untreated illness and chose to live rough in the Phoenix Park, which was how the accused came to know him.
Moran, who lived at Camden Hall homeless hostel, Camden St, Dublin, had pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr Donnelly at an unknown time during November 28 or 29, 2013.
However, he changed his plea to guilty on day nine of his trial last week, after the judge ruled that the jury should hear his descriptive confession to the murder.
The trial had heard gardaí found Mr Donnelly’s body on fire in a sleeping bag in a wooded area of the Phoenix Park shortly before 1am on November 29. He was lying at the base of a tree with a blowtorch near his groin.
A postmortem concluded that he died of instrumental blunt force trauma to the head. The pathologist said he had received multiple blows from a heavy object and that a fire-damaged lump hammer found beside the body could have been the weapon used.
Professor Marie Cassidy, the State pathologist, said that a pincer tool found at the scene could have been used to amputate his left little toe and cause a V-shaped incise wound to his thumb.
His skull and face were extensively fractured, his brain was injured, and the upper half of his body was severely fire damaged. Such were his injuries that Mr Donnelly was identified through a DNA match with his mother.
Detective Sergeant Tom Lynch told the sentencing hearing yesterday Mr Donnelly was an only child whose father had died when he was a teenager. He said his mother was not in good health and was in a home.
He had worked as a truck driver and had lived in England, where he had a daughter. She was nine at the time of his death.
He said the mother of his child had provided a victim impact statement, in which she said he had worked hard every day to support her and their daughter. She described him as kind and honest. She said that her daughter now had only her memories and photographs of her father, and would miss out on having him around for birthdays, Christmases and even her wedding day.
She said she would also find out one day how her father had been taken away in such a cruel and unjust way, and this would have a profound impact on her life.
Mr Donnelly’s extended family also prepared a victim impact statement, which was read in court.
It said that his mother had been left without her only child, her ‘only ray of sunshine in the world’.
Det Sgt Lynch said that Moran had 23 previous convictions, the most recent one being from February this year, when he was convicted of manslaughter.
Cork Circuit Court had imposed a seven-year sentence with two years suspended.
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