A 47-year-old Offalyman has been found not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter of his son at the Central Criminal court today.
A jury of seven men and five women took just under two hours to reach the guilty verdict against Mr Thomas Groome.
He had pleaded not guilty to murdering his 19-year-old son Mr Christopher Groome in a caravan at Churchview Heights, Edenderry, Co Offaly on November 15, 1999.
Groome showed no emotion as the verdict was read out. He was accompanied in court by his current partner, his wife from whom he is separated and a daughter.
He was remanded in custody for sentencing on May 4 by Mr Justice Barry White.
"It’s a fair outcome," the sergeant in charge at Edenderry Garda station, Sgt James Queeney said afterwards. "Naturally any family case is a tragic one." he said.
The jury heard during the trial that Mr Groome had admitted stabbing his son during a drunken row to detectives after his arrest in November 1999.
Detective Sergeant Gerard McGrath told the court that Mr Groome said he was on his way out of his caravan when he told his son to "stop acting the bollocks" and "a tussle" ensued.
"I picked up the knife on the draining board. In the struggle Christy and I fell backwards towards the door …I don't remember what hand I had the knife in. Christy fell on top of me frontways, it was after him falling straight on top of me that I stabbed him" Mr Groome allegedly told gardaí.
The last words of Mr Christopher Groome were recalled for the jury by Det. Sgt. McGrath: "I cradled Christy in my arms, I saw his face turn white in my hands. He said 'Da why did you do it?'" Mr Groome allegedly said.
The court heard he was "crying uncontrollably" whilst he said this.
"I was looking for the rise and fall of his chest but there was nothing there," he told detectives.
Det. Sgt McGrath confirmed that Mr Groome said: "I held his nose and tried breathing into his mouth, I tried to call for help. He was absolutely freezing at that stage, he had gone stone cold".
"Kelly came back, she took the phone from me and she spoke to someone on how to administer first aid. I was shouting at Kelly to forgive me", he is also alleged to have said.
Det. Sgt McGrath agreed with defence counsel Mr Patrick MacEntee SC that the accused said "Oh Jesus Christ how am I going to live with this?".
The deceased was taken to Tullamore hospital where he was pronounced dead shortly after arrival.
Mr Groome was formally charged with the murder of his son in September 2002 and spent six months in custody before he was granted bail.
During the two week-trial the jury heard how Groome’s son, his son’s girlfriend Ms Kelly Richardson and their 8-month-old daughter Amber, had moved into his cramped caravan – which had no toilet facilities - just two weeks before the death of Christopher.
Ms Richardson, aged 23, was present in the caravan when her boyfriend was fatally stabbed by his father when a row broke out after they had got home from a nightclub in Edenderry.
A crucial eyewitness, she was cross-examined over the course of two days by Mr Anthony Sammon SC prosecuting and Mr Patrick MacEntee SC defending.
It emerged that Thomas Groome – who joined the Defence Forces at 18 years and served three years - had only moved home from Barnsley, South Yorkshire in England a few weeks before his son and family joined him in Edenderry and had hoped to break into the Karaoke entertainment business.
On Sunday November 14, 1999 Christopher had helped his father set up the equipment for a job in a local pub and had later brought his girlfriend along for a night out.
After a successful night’s work, all three went to a nightclub to celebrate.
Ms Richardson, originally from Barnsley, told the court her boyfriend had promised her he would build a future for her and her daughter in Ireland by working with his father in the Karaoke business.
That day however, "an underlying tension" between Groome and his son had been building up all day that culminated in a drunken row when they got back to the caravan around 3am on Monday 15 November.
"Tommy was saying 'get out of bed with your clothes on’ " Ms Richardson told the jury.
"Christopher said som'at to him, Tommy got mad, he bumped into me, ran up to the bed and punched him in the face, there was tea split all over the bed," Ms Richardson told the court.
"Thomas grabbed Christopher in a head-lock on the bed," said Ms Richardson. "Thomas pulled Christopher off the bed. I was stood near the cooker, I moved back into the wardrobe. They were still struggling and fighting. Thomas picked a knife up off the draining board and brought his hand down really fast and stuck the knife into Christopher," she told prosecution counsel Mr Sammon SC.
"It all happened really fast. He stuck it into his ribs, on his left," she said. "Then Christopher said to me 'Kelly, I feel weak, get him off me’. I freed the head-lock with my right hand and I put my left hand around the waist of Christopher and I pulled him up," she told the jury.
Ms Richardson then told the jury how Mr Groome then turned on her and chased her out of the caravan site wielding the knife in his hands: "I was on the floor, Thomas punched my head, pulled my hair. I jumped out the caravan door. Thomas came chasing me with the knife - I ran up past all the caravans," she alleged.
Ms Richardson told the court she ran to a public phone to call 999 and ran back to the caravan to find Mr Groome at the door screaming 'Christopher come back, don't go'.
"He looked me in the eye and he said 'I'm sorry'" she told the jury. Mr Christopher Groome was leaning up against a bed in the cramped caravan she said: "his eyes were closed and his lips were a funny colour," she said.
Neighbour Ms Kate Collins testified that she heard the accused shouting and screaming about his son around 3am the morning of 15 November 1999: "It was around three o'clock, he shouted 'somebody get an ambulance for Christopher'".
"He was shouting and crying, he was saying 'please don't die Christopher'" she said.
Ms Collins then told the jury she bumped into Ms Richardson outside her caravan door. "Kelly came down running and she said 'Christopher is dead, I'm gonna do Tommy in'" she told Mr Sammon.
State Pathologist Dr Marie Cassidy confirmed that death was due to a stab wound to the left side of the trunk, which punctured the left lung and damaged an artery.
She said the wound "could have caused him to collapse immediately".
Garda sources say Mr Groome was well known to the police in the UK where he spent most of his adult life and has a string of previous convictions for theft between 1973 and 1998.