Man sentenced to life imprisonment for 'brutal' Waterford murder

Stephen Keane (31) was found guilty by a unanimous jury verdict of the murder of John Lowe (60) at his Portlaw home on December 13th, 2018.
Man sentenced to life imprisonment for 'brutal' Waterford murder

Paul Neilan

A man has been sentenced to life imprisonment at the Central Criminal Court (CCC) on Monday for the "brutal, horrendous" murder of a 60-year-old man in Waterford three years ago.

In May of this year, Stephen Keane (31) of Coolfin Meadows, Portlaw, Co Waterford, was found guilty by a unanimous jury verdict of the murder of John Lowe (60) at his Portlaw home on December 13th, 2018.

On Monday at the Central Criminal Court, Mr Justice Paul McDermott said that the only sentence that could be imposed was life imprisonment.

Victim impact statements from three of Mr Lowe's sisters were read in court by prosecution barrister John O'Kelly SC.

Mr Lowe's sister, Margaret Power, in her victim impact statement, said that she and the family were "devastated, especially in the circumstances" by the "horrendous" murder of their only brother. She said that Mr Lowe was of such a good nature that he even "defended the defendant before he [Mr Lowe] was brutally murdered".

Ms Power said in her statement that Mr Lowe had "given him [Keane] a place to stay before he was brutally murdered".

Only brother

Ms Olive Organ, another sister, said in her statement that there was only 15 months between her and Mr Lowe and that they had "gone everywhere together".

Ms Organ said that they had been a family of five, with John being the only boy. She said that when he returned from working in England he took great pride in his Coolfin home.

Ms Organ said that Mr Lowe had a great sense of humour and that "he loved us and we loved him". She added that Keane's account of what happened on the night hurt her "very deeply".

She said that she could never truly know what happened on the night of her brother's death and that only two people know "but the person I want to talk to is dead," she added. "I miss John so much," she said, describing Mr Lowe as her "baby brother".

Ms Organ said that it still upsets her that she could not identify her brother the next day as his face had changed so much.

Mr O'Kelly said that another sister, Violet Sutcliffe, said in her victim impact statement that Mr Lowe had such an adoration for another sister, Georgina, that the family didn't have the heart to tell her what happened. She passed away still believing that Mr Lowe, also known as 'Buck', was alive and well.

"John was the last sibling in the family but the first to leave us," she said in her statement.

Ms Sutcliffe also said that she deeply missed phone calls and exchanging birthday cards with John, who would also be missed by his nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews.

She said the lives of the surviving family members would never be the same.

Members of the deceased's family and of Keane's family were present in the court for the sentence hearing.

After imposing the life sentence, Mr Justice McDermott offered his condolences to the family of Mr Lowe.

Plea

Keane had pleaded guilty to manslaughter, but not guilty to Mr Lowe's murder.

At the trial, Keane had claimed that he had an argument with Mr Lowe about an alleged theft of money from a silver box.

Keane had claimed to have hit Mr Lowe with "one punch" and said that he "knew he had killed him because he caught him clean".

The defendant also claimed that Mr Lowe came at him with a knife. However, gardaí found neither a silver box or a knife.

Also at the trial, then Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis gave evidence that Mr Lowe suffered "multiple wounds" with the fatal blow being landed to the artery under the left ear.

After his arrest, Keane was taken to University Hospital Waterford for bandaging of his swollen and bloodied hands.

Colman Cody SC, defending Keane, had argued at trial that Keane was too drunk on the day to have intentionally killed Mr Lowe.

The jury also heard that Keane had tried to resuscitate Mr Lowe and that he had returned to the scene with his mother.

A 999 call was played for the jury during which the call-taker talked Keane and his mother through CPR.

Keane had also denied that he could murder Mr Lowe, as the defendant said he was his "only friend in the world".

Mr Justice McDermott backdated the sentence to December 13th, 2018, the day of the murder, when Keane was first taken into custody

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