A 26-year-old north Dublin criminal has been jailed for 11 years for the manslaughter of an Estonian man attacked as he sat with his girlfriend watching planes take off from Dublin airport.
Ian Daly of Moatview Drive in Priorswood was on trial at the Central Criminal Court for the murder of Valeri Ranert (aged 28) of Westend Village, Blanchardstown on April 30, 2007 at Naul Road in Swords.
He had pleaded not guilty to murdering the divorced father-of-one and to hijacking the victim’s Volkswagen Golf on the same occasion.
However, Daly, also a father-of-one, changed his plea to not guilty to murder, but guilty to manslaughter on day four of his trial today. This was accepted by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the jury of nine men and three women was excused.
Detective Garda John Collins told Michael Durack SC, prosecuting, that Mr Ranert and his girlfriend, Jelena Sirokova, drove to the lay-by beside the runway at the back of the airport around midnight on Sunday April 29, 2007.
About an hour later a number of men arrived in a Ford Fiesta, he said. After initially asking for a light, two of the men surrounded the couple’s car and smashed in the side windows. One of them then kicked Mr Ranert in the head, rendering him unconscious.
They dragged the forklift driver from his car and kicked him to death in front of Ms Sirokova before stealing his car and fleeing.
Mr Ranert was lifeless as he lay on the roadside and pronounced dead an hour later in Beaumont Hospital. He died of blunt force trauma to the head and neck.
The detective said a mobile phone found beside the victim was registered to Ian Daly.
He was arrested the following September, and told gardaí that he had been out “on a bender” all weekend at the time of the killing.
“So I was fairly out of it,” he said. “We went on a spin… There were four of us.”
He said they arrived at the lay by and he initially thought there were “two birds” in the Volkswagen.
“Before I knew it, there was a row going on,” he said, telling detectives that Mr Ranert had already been dragged from his Golf before he left the Fiesta.
“I think I only gave him two thumps and a kick, but he got more,” he said in his statement.
He said that after the attack, he and his accomplices went back to Moatview, where some “kids rallied” the dead man’s car and burned it. The killers then went to an all-night party.
He said he was told at 7am that the “murder squad” was looking for him and he checked Teletext and learned Mr Ranert had died.
“I got a false passport and went to Spain for two weeks to clear my head,” he said.
He said he was coming back to hand himself in when he was arrested at Belfast Airport. He spent a number of months in custody in the North and handed himself in at Coolock garda station on his release.
He apologised to his victim’s family and girlfriend in his statement.
“This would not have happened only I was out all weekend without sleep. I wouldn’t have got into the car for a spin,” he said, claiming he did not know who was in the Ford Fiesta with him or who owned it.
Daly had 65 previous convictions. Two of these were for firearms offences and one was a conviction for possession of drugs for sale or supply. He is currently serving a one-year sentence for a road traffic offence, which began in February, a month after he went into custody on the murder charge.
The court heard that Mr Ranert worked as a prison officer in Estonia before moving to Ireland to make a better life for his daughter, now aged six, who he visited regularly in her home in St Petersburg. Friends told gardaí he was very chatty and loved life and his daughter.
Mr Durack read a victim impact statement prepared by his mother, who still lives in Estonia with his father and sister.
“For any parent, the worst fear is to bury your own child… My only son brutally beaten to death thousands of miles from home. I’m a heart-broken woman,” she said. “All his hopes and dreams died with him.”
Mrs Ranert explained that the family home and mortgage in Estonia had been in her son’s name, had been uninsured and went to the bank after his death.
“He chose Ireland to make a better life for his family,” she said. “He loved Ireland and had great friends there.”
She said she now worries for her granddaughter’s future.
“Our hearts bleed each time she asks why her father is not here anymore. That’s the question we ask ourselves every day,” she said.
“I’m so proud of who Valeri was,” she said, explaining that he knew right from wrong and was a caring member of society.
Her last words were for the members of Swords garda station, whom she thanked. “God bless you all,” she said.
Mr Patrick Gageby SC, defending, said CCTV evidence showed his client was wearing bright colours that night and that Ms Sirokova said the two attackers were in dark clothing. He also said he was taller than the men she described.
The mother of Daly’s seven-year-old son, Suzanne Kelly, said she takes the boy to visit his father in prison, where he thinks Daly works as a chef. She said Daly is remorseful for the killing and that he was a follower rather than a leader.
Mr Justice George Birmingham said this killing was on the upper end of the manslaughter scale, which is “on the cusp of murder”.
“The offence involved gratuitous violence,” he said.
He said that this crime, where a number of men set upon a couple minding their own business, was in a different category to a manslaughter arising from a fight or public disorder.
“This happened during intentional serious criminality,” he said, explaining that death was not an unforeseeable consequence.
“The level of violence was gross,” he said. “Very considerable force was required to kick in a car window and to kick a person on the head through a window.”
This first kick stunned Mr Ranert at the very least, he said, and he was not in a position to defend himself.
He noted that the first statements Daly made were self-serving, but he later made a more helpful admission.
“The admissions are of value, although the accused then embarked on a challenge of their admissibility,” he said.
“To his credit, he didn’t seek to invent some cock and bull story regarding his phone,” he added.
He said Daly was remorseful and noted that he had been described as having a conscience by one of the investigating gardaí.
He imposed a 13-year sentence backdated to January 6, and suspended the final two years.
The mother of Daly’s child broke down in tears.
Daly, who had smiled at his family and friends as Ms Sirokova cried in the witness box, also became emotional.
Ms Sirokova said she was happy and relieved as did Mr Ranert’s family, who were told of the result by phone.
One other person is awaiting trial for Mr Ranert’s manslaughter in Dublin Circuit Criminal Court and the two other people remain uncharged.