Sligo gardaí want others attacked or assaulted to contact them in wake of murders

Gardaí are expected to probe whether there is a homophobic link to the murders and a separate attack in the town
Sligo gardaí want others attacked or assaulted to contact them in wake of murders

Flowers at the scene in Connaughton Road, Sligo, Ireland, following the death of Michael Snee. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Gardaí in Sligo are examining whether there is a homophobic motive for the grisly killings of two men in the town over the past two days. 

Michael Snee, 58, was found dead in his home in Sligo Town last night, while Aidan Moffitt, 42, was found dead in his home in the town on Monday night.

A man, aged in his 20s, was arrested in the early hours this morning in connection with Mr Snee's death. However, the suspect will also be questioned about the murder of Aidan Moffitt.

He will also be questioned about an attack on a man at the start of the weekend in which the victim lost an eye.

Michael Snee, 58 (left), and Aidan Moffitt, 41.
Michael Snee, 58 (left), and Aidan Moffitt, 41.

At about 10.30pm on Tuesday night, gardaí were called to an apartment at Connaughton Road, Sligo, where Mr Snee's body was discovered with what gardaí described as significant physical injuries.

At about 1.45am, following what was described as "intense local Garda activity and inquiries", Sligo gardaí, assisted by the Armed Support Unit, arrested a male in his early 20s in Sligo Town on suspicion of murder.

He is now being held under section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act 1984 at Sligo Garda Station.

This scene at the apartment has been preserved pending forensic examination by officers from the Garda technical bureau. A garda spokesman confirmed the injuries to Mr Snee are "not as extensive" as those inflicted on Mr Moffitt.

Speaking at a press conference, Garda superintendent Aidan Glacken said Mr Snee “had been subject of a serious physical assault and had suffered significant injuries.” 

He said gardaí were conducting separate murder investigations into the death of Mr Snee and 42-year-old Aidan Moffitt, who was found dead in a house in Cartron Heights in Sligo on Monday.

Gardaí outside the private residence at Connaughton Road, Sligo, where they discovered the body of Michael Snee, 58 years, yesterday. Picture: Eamonn Farrell /
Gardaí outside the private residence at Connaughton Road, Sligo, where they discovered the body of Michael Snee, 58 years, yesterday. Picture: Eamonn Farrell /

“Michael and Aidan were well known and respected in this community,” Mr Glacken said.

They were assaulted and murdered in their own homes. 

"We continue to retain an open mind in this investigation."

"We are actively investigating as to whether there is any hate related motive to these murders. 

While he would not be drawn on a homophobic link between the killings, Supt Glacken said gardaí "will endeavour to seek out all the available evidence, and ultimately it will be for a Court to decide on the motivation behind these appalling crimes."

He said investigating gardaí were looking at whether the victims met their attacker online.

"I am appealing to any person who may have been subject of any unwanted approaches or who was assaulted or otherwise attacked to contact the incident room at Sligo Garda Station. 

"I have a dedicated diversity team here, we need to hear from you, we are here to listen to you and we are here to support you.

"I continue to appeal to anyone with any information on these crimes to contact us at Sligo Garda station," he said.

No matter how insignificant you think it may be, we need to hear from you.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with their families at this time and indeed their friends and the wider community in Sligo.”

Murder of Aidan Moffitt

The body of well-known local auctioneer and Fine Gael activist Aidan Moffitt in the town was found at his home in Cartron Heights estate on the northern outskirts of Sligo Town at 8.30pm on Monday night. 

It is understood his body had been badly mutilated.

Gardaí at the scene at Cartron Heights on Tuesday, Sligo on Tuesday. Picture: James Connolly
Gardaí at the scene at Cartron Heights on Tuesday, Sligo on Tuesday. Picture: James Connolly

Gardaí are also understood to be investigating if the two fatal attacks in as many days are linked in any way to a previous assault on a man that occurred in Sligo in the early hours of Saturday morning last.

The victim of that assault, a man in his 40s, was seriously injured during the incident. It is being reported he was stabbed and lost an eye.

Investigations into the attack are continuing.

A number of properties have been raided in relation to the killings, including a house in Markievicz Heights in the town. 

'The community is stunned'

Sligo-Leitrim TD Frank Feighan has spoken of the “cloud of worry and fear” that hangs over the town of Sligo following two violent deaths and a serious attack on another man.

“The community is stunned,” Mr Feighan said. 

"The last few days had brought huge concern to the area." 

The Fine Gael TD said the level of violence of the incidents was "absolutely shocking". 

"It is something that Sligo is not used to,” he told Newstalk Breakfast.

On Wednesday morning, the Taoiseach said he was "deeply concerned" by news of the killings. 

"My deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Aidan Moffitt," Micheál Martin said.

"Deeply concerned by this horrific killing and reports of another violent death in Sligo this morning.

I urge anyone with any information to contact gardaí."

Speaking outside Government buildings, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar too expressed his sympathy to Mr Moffitt's family and friends.

"I was speaking to some of our members in Sligo last night," Mr Varadkar said. 

"I just really wanted to say how shocked and how worried I am by the two murders that appear to have occurred in Sligo in the last couple of days."

'A dark week for the LGBTI+ community'

LGBT Ireland said the devastating crimes against the LGBTI+ community in recent days have brought to the fore the need for comprehensive Hate Crime legislation.

The group said they intend to speak with lawmakers over the coming days to ensure the forthcoming legislation is effective, comprehensive, and enacted with urgency.

"The LGBTI+ community has the right to feel and be safe on our streets and online," said Paula Fagan, CEO of LGBT Ireland.

This has been a dark week for the LGBTI+ community in Ireland. We are still reeling from the vicious homophobic assault on Dame Street in Dublin in recent days and, now, we are deeply saddened by events in Sligo."

While these events are on the extreme end of a spectrum of violence experienced by the LGBTI+ community, Ms Fagan said it highlights the vulnerabilities and very real fears of the wider community.

Last year, the National LGBT Helpline received 21 calls related to violence but teh group believes this does not reflect the true number of violent incidents directed towards members of the community.

"We fear that many more people do not report hate incidents to us or to the Gardaí, due to the normalisation of homophobia and transphobia in society.

"Work done by the Hate and Hostility Research Group at the University of Limerick in 2019, revealed that one in five of those surveyed had been punched, hit or physically attacked in public for being LGBTI+ and one in three had been threatened with physical violence.

These statistics are a stark reminder of the violence that our community still faces."

Ms Fagan extended condolences to the families and friends of the victims and urged those who have been impacted by the events of recent days to reach out for support. The National LGBT Helpline can be reached on 1800 929 539.

Sligo Pride urges LGBTQ+ community 'to take extra precautions'

The organisers of the Sligo Pride Festival have asked members of the the LGBTQ+ community to take extra precautions before and after attending its events.

"Following recent events in both Dublin and Sligo, we are urging members of our community to take extra precautions, especially if attending Pink Friday in @swagmanbarsligo this Friday, or our Rainbow Ball event in @claytonsligo next Saturday," the festival's organisers said in a statement share on social media.

"If at all possible, do not walk home alone. If you cannot afford a taxi, please let a friend know when you have left a venue and when you've gotten home.

"If you are meeting someone online in person for the first time, give a trusted friend as much information on this other person as you can and let your friend know where you are."

The organisers said they understood that the festival's community may have concerns, and that they would be looking into hiring security for the Rainbow Ball event.

- If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this article, please click here for a list of support services.

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