Murderer uses birth of baby to seek early release

CONVICTED murderer Sean Courtney fathered a child while on day release visits to his partner and now wants a date set for his release.

Courtney has been allowed out on temporary release during festive periods for the last three years. He is currently in Loughan House open prison in Co Cavan where he is serving a sentence for the murder of Patricia O’Toole, 32, who died in the Dublin mountains after he hit her with a rock in 1991.

While in prison Courtney struck up a pen-pal relationship with a 33-year-old woman who give birth to a child late last year and registered Courtney as the father on the birth certificate.

The fact that Courtney is now a father of an infant, he has two children from a previous relationship, is believed to have been presented by him in his bid to have a release date set.

Now an organisation which provides support services to families who have lost a loved one to murder has stated it would cause distress to the bereaved if parole boards took into account the fact that prisoners had formed new families while on temporary release from life sentences.

Psychotherapist Rita O’Quigley, spokeswoman for the Support after Homicide group, said: “If people are allowed out on the grounds of new children it would do awful harm to the whole system.”

Courtney, a former soldier who attended his trial in uniform, admitted killing Ms O’Toole but claimed he was insane at the time – due to post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of his experiences in Lebanon.

During his trial, the jury heard that in a statement to gardaí, Courtney admitted he picked up Ms O’Toole early on the morning of August 31, 1991, in south Dublin after she stopped his car to ask for directions.

He claimed Ms O’Toole did not know where she was going and he had offered to drive her to a friend’s house.

Courtney claims that during a conversation in the car Ms O’Toole said: “You never know who you pick up at this time of night. I could get you done for attacking me if I went to the police. It would be only your word against mine.”

In his statement, he said she “was laughing about me and seemed to think it was a big joke. I didn’t know what to think. I just blew a fuse and went mad”.

In 2008, Courtney unsuccessfully took a constitutional challenge arguing that the failure to release him, having served 15 years, is in breach of his rights under the Constitution and the European Convention of Human Rights Act 2003.


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