A man has been jailed for eight years for killing a father-of-three who was buried alive in a shallow grave in Co Wicklow four years ago.
Clement Byrne (aged 49) of Clonattin Village, Gorey, Co Wexford was charged with the murder of Steven O’ Meara (aged 26) at Ballydonnell Wood, Redcross on August 6, 2009.
He pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to manslaughter at the Central Criminal Court last March and this plea was accepted by the State.
Mr O’Meara, who was from Rosehill in Wicklow Town, was shot and buried alive in a shallow grave in the woods.
His body was found nearly five months later on Christmas Eve.
Today, Mr Justice Paul Carney handed down an eight-year sentence, backdating it to January 17, 2012 and directed that Byrne undergo 18 months post-release supervision.
Mr Justice Carney took into account the range of manslaughter sentences that can be imposed, the accused’s plea of guilty and the effect on the victim’s family - in particular the children of the deceased.
“This case is an extremely difficult one to evaluate - reading the transcript of the sentence hearing it is hard to find much solidly brought home for the accused,” said the judge.
“Reading the probation report however is an entirely different story. The probation officer investigated everything thoroughly and I accept his comments,” he added.
Last week Detective Sergeant Fergus O’Brien told the court that Byrne is the second person to be convicted over the killing, but the man who shot him was not before the courts.
Michael Dickenson is serving a life sentence for Mr O’Meara’s murder for driving him to the woods where two men were waiting, one of whom was Byrne.
Mr O’Meara was employed by a Dublin gang to collect a drugs debt of €5,000 and was told that it was going to be paid over that evening, the court heard.
Det Sgt O’Brien told Mr Denis Vaughan-Buckley prosecuting that Mr O’Meara was seen getting into Dickenson’s car that day.
Byrne told gardaí he punched Mr O’Meara and knocked him to the ground then said a man jumped out of the woods and shot him.
Deputy State Pathologist Dr Khalid Jabbar gave the cause of death as internal hemorrhage due to gunshot wounds to the trunk and leg and said asphyxia was a potential cause of death.
Mr O’ Meara’s body was found on Christmas Eve 2009 because of Dickenson’s admissions to gardai.
Byrne told gardai that another person paid a man €6,000 to give Mr O’Meara “a kicking”.
He also told gardaí he went to the woods to help out a friend and denied having any financial gain from the killing.
The court heard Byrne, a father-of-three, had 25 previous convictions and was never gainfully employed.
Byrne who was a native of Birmingham in England is of mixed race and has an Irish mother.
Det Sgt O’Brien agreed with Mr Brendan Grahan SC defending that Byrne had some difficulty growing up because of his race.
He further agreed that Byrne told gardaí he just thought Mr O’Meara was going to “get a kicking” and had he known he was to be shot he would have tried to stop it.
Mr Grehan said that his client was not associated with burying him alive and said another person was responsible for that.
He said Byrne was the only black child in a white family and he also had stones thrown at him in prison.
Mr Grehan said there had been a number of attacks on him in jail, he had contracted tuberculosis and he is now being detained in Wheatfield Prison.