A young man who denied murdering his mother thinking he was setting her free from the cruelty of life was found guilty of murder yesterday.
Paul Horgan, aged 27, pleaded not guilty to the murder of his mother Marian, aged 60, at the family home at Murmont Avenue in Montenotte in Cork on November 24, 2015.
A jury of nine men and three women took just over one hour to reach a unanimous verdict of guilty yesterday. Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy imposed the mandatory sentence of life imprisonment on Paul Horgan.
The family wept and hugged each other in court and did not present any victim impact evidence. The accused gave no visible reaction to the verdict and life sentence.
In testimony, he said he could not remember the fatal incident but that during 12 months afterwards at the Central Mental Hospital thoughts were coming back to him. These thoughts included one that his intention was to set his mother free.
Asked about this yesterday in the Central Criminal Court he said he had intended to set his father free afterwards and then himself. Asked what he meant by setting free, he replied that he was talking about the cruelty of life and that his life was cruel.
Paul Horgan got into the witness box to give evidence on the third and final day of his trial and accepted that he killed his mother.
“I wanted to set her free not that I meant to kill her,” he testified.
But Tom Creed, prosecution senior counsel, put it to him, “In order to set her free you knew it was necessary for you to intend to kill her.” He replied, “Yeah, I suppose so.” Mr Creed repeated, “In intending to set her free you intended to kill her.” He replied, “I suppose so.”
When it was put to him that it was an inescapable fact of the evidence that he had stabbed his mother he said: “I did not intend to kill her. I intended to set her free because life is so cruel. My own life was cruel too. I wanted to set her free. My mother did not deserve cruelty.”
Paul Horgan then added he had the same intention for his father and himself.
Asked about the attack on his father he said, “Yeah, I am so sorry — I didn’t mean it at all. I don’t know how it happened.”
When Tim O’Leary, defence senior counsel, referred him to some of the witness evidence and asked how he felt about that, the accused man replied: “Horrible — it is hard to listen to everything. But I don’t remember it, like.”
Mr Creed SC pointed out that while Paul Horgan was assessed in the Central Mental Hospital it was found that he was not suffering from a mental disorder.
The defendant replied: “I was not suffering from a serious mental disorder.”
However, Mr Creed disagreed and said, “No, no, no, he said you were not suffering a mental disorder.” Mr Creed said there was no psychiatric finding on which the defence could rely to claim diminished responsibility.
“It was not like my thoughts were normal,” Paul Horgan said.
Mr Creed referred to the defendant killing his mother, then going upstairs to put on his runners and carry two knives out of the house to follow his father from the house. Paul Horgan said: “I was walking upstairs whistling a marching tune I was hearing.”
On the opening day of the trial Billy Horgan gave evidence of coming home from the local GAA club and seeing his son watching television and he told him not to stay up too late.
The next morning he heard an argument downstairs between his son and wife and he went down to the kitchen after 7am.
“She was standing in the kitchen. She had her hands around her neck, a knife sticking out of her neck. She said, ‘Help me’. I put my arm around her. She fell to the floor. I said, ‘Look what you are after doing to your mother.’ He didn’t say a word. He looked calm. He never said anything. He looked at me as if there was something wrong with me. He just smiled. He kept smiling.
“He struck me with something in the head. I ended up next to Marian on the floor. I don’t know how long I was there. I came around. My head was stinging (he had seven wounds to his head).
“Paul slipped on the blood. I got up then. I felt I had to (leave). The next time I saw him. I looked behind me. He was there with two knives clicking them like that (gestured in the witness box). He was smiling at me. He kept walking down the footpath clicking the knives.
“I hit the knife out of his right hand. I don’t know how I got the knife out of his left hand,” Bill Horgan said.
Neighbour Fergus O’Donoghue was walking from his front door when he noticed two figures in the porch of the Horgan house. Then he saw Paul Horgan holding his father in a head-lock. Mr O’Donoghue intervened.
Mr O’Donoghue said Billy Horgan said to him, ‘He killed Marian.’ Mr O’Donoghue turned to the accused and said, ‘What did you do?’ Paul replied, ‘I killed her’. The witness said; “He appeared quite cool and calm at the time. He was shouting at his dad, ‘you fat c**t’.”
Paul kept trying to get past Mr O’Donoghue to get at his dad and Mr O’Donoghue had to wrestle him to the ground and hit him. Other men who arrived on the scene assisted.
Garda Mark Durcan was on duty nearby and handcuffed Paul Horgan and arrested him.
Questioned by Garda Durcan, Paul Horgan said he stayed up watching television for the night — six or seven episodes of Family Guy and the Harry Potter film Deathly Hallows Part II. He said he could not remember arguing with his mother when she got up at around 7am, but added that he did not think he would want to remember.
Asked if he would often drink two bottles of wine he replied: “When things are bad, things going through my head, freaking myself out because I cannot talk to women. That is all I think about... I was drinking to forget.”
The jury was told Billy Horgan did not bring an assault complaint against his son.
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