A “rare and exceptional” sentence of life imprisonment for manslaughter of Timmy Hourihane

“The killing was carried out in a vicious, merciless and brutal manner.
A “rare and exceptional” sentence of life imprisonment for manslaughter of Timmy Hourihane

A number of people witnessed the assault which lasted about five minutes.

A “rare and exceptional” sentence of life imprisonment was imposed on Kerry man Christopher O’Sullivan for the manslaughter of a 53-year-old homeless man at the Mardyke in Cork in October 2019.

Mr Justice Paul McDermott said, “A sentence of life imprisonment is a rare and exceptional step to take (in a manslaughter case).” However, the judge said it was deserved in the case against 40-year-old O’Sullivan for the manslaughter of Timmy Hourihane.

“The killing was carried out in a vicious, merciless and brutal manner.

“Mr Hourihane was repeatedly kicked and stamped on on the ground when prone and defenceless. A number of people witnessed the assault which lasted about five minutes. He continued the assault after (co-accused) withdrew and the two of them then set fire to Mr Hourihane’s tent.

“Mr O’Sullivan discarded a top he was wearing into the fire. He then disposed of clothes in (another) fire – disposing of evidence of the crime. He did nothing to assist him or obtain aid for him.

“Blood (from the deceased) soaked through his (O’Sullivan’s) runners onto his socks.

“This case is concerned primarily with loss of life – the loss of life of Timothy Hourihane. He was a person who had his own difficulties. I have heard the victim evidence statements from his son, relations and members of his family who has suffered the loss of their family member and have stated in short but clear terms the devastation his death and the manner of hid death have caused them. It was a horrible death.

“Mr O’Sullivan’s case is dominated by his appalling record of 48 prior convictions including egregious offences against the person. It is clear that his offending is of an escalating nature which gives rise to concern about future offences and the very real threat he poses in the future.

“The nature of this offence is the worst kind of killing and ranks just short of murder… It was a shocking, unrelenting, pitiless and savage attack on a man who lay helpless on the ground.” The killer apologised to the family but they said in a victim statement that he had the presence of mind on the night of the killing to go away and burn his clothing while their loved one lay dying.

Christopher O’Sullivan of no fixed address pleaded guilty to his part in the manslaughter of the former chef at a homeless encampment in Cork city. Timmy Hourihane, a 53-year-old father-of-one, was fatally injured when he was attacked near his tent on Mardyke Walk in October 2019 and died a short time later in hospital.

Son of the deceased, Elliot Hourihane, said, “They killed my dad in the most brutal and savage way. You don’t get those kind of injuries my dad sustained if they were not trying to end his life. How is this fair? He has left a son without a father, mother without a son and siblings without a brother.” The accused had 48 previous convictions including of assault causing serious harm in 2007 to a man who sustained catastrophic injuries to his face when he was attacked in the door of a house. 

“It bears a lot of similarities to the assault on Mr Hourihane. Following that assault (in 2007) he asked other people to take the injured party out of the building and leave him lying prone on the roadside,” 

Det. Supt. Michael Comyns said.

Roisín Lacey senior counsel for Christopher O’Sullivan said, “He wants to offer the sincerest and deepest apology to the Hourihane family for his participation in and contribution to the death of Mr Hourihane. He has by his plea of guilty accepted his guilt. He had a traumatic childhood. In essence it is unspeakable on so many levels and makes for tragic reading.” Co-accused James Brady, of Shannon Lawn, Mayfield, in Cork, was found guilty of Mr Hourihane's manslaughter after a four-week murder trial and he was sentenced to 13 years with the last two years suspended.

Originally from the Sheep's Head Peninsula in west Cork, Mr Hourihane had once worked for the Hilton group in the UK before falling on hard times and ending up homeless in Cork city.

The Hourihane family said in a second victim impact statement, “With a history of brutal and violent behaviour he knew well the outcome of what he was doing. He still had the presence of mind to burn his bloody clothes in a nearby fire while Timothy lay dying. We cannot understand how a human being could do this. For us it is a life sentence.” Det. Supt. Comyns said that at the time of this fatal attack a number of homeless people had set up a tented village on fields in the Mardyke, near the skate park and partly visible from the road.

Christopher O’Sullivan’s 37th birthday fell on October 12 2019. He is now 40. He spent the day drinking. There had been some tensions in this tented village in the days beforehand. A number of the parties returned to the area after midnight (October 13). Extensive CCTV and several eyewitness accounts established what happened next.

Det. Supt. Comyns testified, “Mr Hourihane headed towards his tent. (Witnesses) saw Mr Hourihane almost immediately being set upon by Mr Brady who was finger-pointing and pushing. Mr O’Sullivan was being held back by (his then partner, from whom he is now estranged).

“Mr Hourihane was severely assaulted on a grass verge. Originally, it was aggressive shouting but this turned almost immediately into the assault – kicking and stamping on Mr Hourihane. He suffered severe facial trauma, brain swelling, broken facial bones, battering of teeth. One tooth was recovered (on post-mortem examination) in the stomach of Mr Hourihane,” Christopher O’Sullivan’s partner tried unsuccessfully to pull him away again during the assault.

Siobhán Lankford, prosecution senior counsel, asked who was more heavily involved in the assault. The detective replied, “Witnesses stated that Mr O’Sullivan continued the assault after Mr Brady had withdrawn. Mr O’Sullivan had to be pulled away from Mr Hourihane.”

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