A man who killed a vulnerable homeless man by throwing him down a 40ft rubbish chute has had his murder conviction quashed for the second time by the Court of Appeal.
The three-judge court substituted David O'Loughlin's murder verdict with a manslaughter verdict having found there was no evidence that he intended to kill or cause serious injury to Liam Manley.
O'Loughlin (33), of Garden City Apartments, North Main Street, Cork was convicted of murdering Mr Manley on May 12, 2013 following a retrial at the Central Criminal Court in January 2019. His first conviction was overturned by the Court of Appeal after they heard that the jury had visited the scene of the murder and had possibly carried out their own experiment by throwing a stone down the chute.
His counsel, Mr Michael O'Higgins SC, had argued before the Court of Appeal that the correct decision in O’Loughlin’s retrial would have been a conviction for manslaughter. Following this morning's judgement Mr O'Higgins said his client wishes to apologise for what he did to Mr Manley and to thank the court for the careful consideration it gave to his case.
O'Loughlin will appear before the Central Criminal Court on Friday where a date will be set for a sentencing hearing. Having been convicted of murder he was sentenced to the mandatory term of life imprisonment but a judge of the Central Criminal Court will be able to impose whatever sentence they deem appropriate.
The trial heard that Mr Manley was a vulnerable man, addicted to alcohol, who had been living at a Simon Community shelter in Cork. O'Loughlin invited Mr Manley to his apartment but they had an argument and O'Loughlin pushed Manley into the chute and went back to his apartment. His lawyers said at his trial that O'Loughlin believed Mr Manley would pass through the chute unharmed and have a "soft landing" on the other end. Rubbish bags had become caught in the chute, however, causing him to become stuck.
In her judgement, delivered orally on Tuesday, Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy said that for a person to be convicted of murder, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused person intended to kill or to cause serious injury.
She described this as a "finely balanced case" but pointed out that the onus of proving what O'Loughlin intended when he pushed Mr Manley down the chute remains with the prosecution. Ms Justice Kennedy said the court had considered whether death or serious injury were unavoidable consequences of O'Loughlin's actions. She added: "We think not. There is no evidence to prove the intent."
Ms Kennedy noted that O'Loughlin's legal team had asked the trial judge to direct an acquittal on the murder charge but had not focussed on the intent issue. She therefore said that while the judge should have directed an acquittal, the appeal court is making no criticism of the trial judge.
Ms Justice Kennedy, sitting with Mr Justice John Edwards and Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy, allowed the appeal and quashed the murder conviction, substituting it for a manslaughter verdict.
Michael O'Higgins SC, on behalf of O'Loughlin, said his client had instructed him that whatever the outcome of the appeal, he wanted to thank the court for its careful consideration of his case. O'Loughlin also wrote a letter stating: "I wish to sincerely apologise for the death I caused to Liam Manley. No human being should have to go through what Liam went through." He said the killing haunts him and that he has come to learn that Mr Manely was a "kind and caring man".
Subscribe or register today to discover more from DonegalLive.ie
Buy the e-paper of the Donegal Democrat, Donegal People's Press, Donegal Post and Inish Times here for instant access to Donegal's premier news titles.
Keep up with the latest news from Donegal with our daily newsletter featuring the most important stories of the day delivered to your inbox every evening at 5pm.