Son convicted of stabbing father to death given 12-year sentence

David Fortune (33) of Rutland Grove, Crumlin pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of his father, Gerry Fortune (62) on August 19th, 2018.
Son convicted of stabbing father to death given 12-year sentence

Eoin Reynolds

A convicted killer who stabbed his father to death in his home, where he "should have felt safe", has been jailed for 12 years by a judge at the Central Criminal Court.

Delivering sentence on Monday Ms Justice Eileen Creedon said the deceased, Gerry Fortune, was "enjoying a quiet afternoon in his own home" watching the All-Ireland Hurling final, when his son David Fortune armed himself with a knife and stabbed him to death.

Ms Justice Creedon said Gerry Fortune had shown no threat to his son and had tried to calm and reassure David when he began acting in an erratic and paranoid way following two days of heavy drinking and drug abuse.

The attack was "entirely unprovoked", the judge said, and the deceased was unarmed and entitled to feel safe in his home.

Following the stabbing David Fortune escaped through a window and committed a further offence when he wrestled a woman from her car and drove off. He did not seek help for his father despite the obviously serious injuries he had inflicted, the judge said.

Ms Justice Creedon further noted that this was Fortune's second conviction for manslaughter involving the use of a knife. He was jailed for eight years in 2006 after he fatally stabbed 31-year-old Michael Murphy outside the Buda Bar in Blanchardstown on Halloween night 2004.

Sentence

Ms Justice Creedon said reports furnished to the court showed that Fortune has limited insight into his offending, has shown a limited acceptance of his responsibility, and is considered a high probability for future reoffending. Considering those factors, Ms Justice Creedon put the offence in the upper end for seriousness for manslaughter and set a headline sentence of 15 years.

After considering Fortune's early guilty plea, his expressions of remorse, efforts to seek employment and difficult family background, she reduced that to 13 years with the final 12 months suspended on condition that he enter a bond to be of good behaviour and to engage with probation and other services.

She sentenced him to five years, to run concurrently, for unlawful seizure of a motor car. His sentence was backdated to August 2018 when Fortune first went into custody.

Fortune (33), of Rutland Grove in Crumlin went on trial at the Central Criminal Court last year charged with murdering his father Gerry Fortune (62) on August 19th, 2018.

On the fifth day of the trial, Fortune was re-arraigned following legal discussions between the parties and he pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to manslaughter. The Director of Public Prosecutions accepted the plea.

'Worse than ten life sentences'

At a sentence hearing last month Leona Lambe, David Fortune's half-sister and daughter of the deceased, said there are "no winners" regardless of the sentence imposed.

She added: "David will have to live with what he did for the rest of his life, knowing he took the life of a man who only ever showed him love, and that is worse than ten life sentences."

She detailed her family's difficulties since her father's death but said her father suffered more than any of them. He is never coming back, she said, and is missing all his family's important moments. He would not have wanted his son David to go to prison, she added, or for the rest of the family to suffer such pain.

She said: "Every family has this one person they might refer to as the glue who holds everything together. He [Gerry] was ours. He should be still here with us."

He was, she said, a healthy, happy man who often joked that he would get his letter from the president when he reached the age of 100. He was three years from retirement and looked forward to "finally getting to relax and enjoy his free time."

'Loved him to bits'

Michael Bowman SC, for Fortune, said his client wants to "unreservedly apologise to his siblings and half siblings". He never intended to kill his father, with whom he had a "strong relationship", counsel said.

Mr Bowman reminded the court of the evidence of several witnesses during the five days of the trial who spoke of the close relationship David Fortune had with his father, that he "loved him to bits" and that his father, in turn, idolised David and would talk to him every day.

Counsel pointed to the garda statement of Ms Lambe, who said Fortune looked as though he was possessed, had no idea what was going on around him and was hallucinating before he stabbed his father.

She had said in her evidence that if it weren't for the "blue tablets" that Fortune took that day, he would not have killed his father.

There was, Mr Bowman said, "no animus or rational motivation" for the killing and no suggestion of premeditation. He said there was evidence that his client was hallucinating and that he believed people were trying to kill him.

He also said his client has had difficulties in his life that he has tried to overcome. In efforts at self-improvement, he has studied addiction studies and has a number of qualifications and was due to begin a course in Maynooth in 2018.

Counsel asked the court to take into account the plea of guilty, the genuine remorse and the extraordinary circumstances acknowledged by all members of the family who said the accused would not deliberately harm his father and had no history of violence towards him.

It was, counsel said, "a tragedy of diabolical proportions" for the Lambes and for the accused.

Evidence

During the trial the jury heard that Gerry, who worked in St James’ Hospital, was stabbed in the neck in his family home with a knife by his son after watching the All-Ireland hurling final between Galway and Limerick in his living room.

Sean Gillane SC for the Director of Public Prosecutions said the accused and a number of other people were in a granny flat at the rear of the house for “a day of drinking and drug taking” on the day of the fatal assault.

Counsel said some of those attending had described the accused as behaving in a paranoid way before he went into the house following a row with his half-brother, Gerard Lambe.

Mr Lambe denied that he put black-market diazepam tablets in the accused’s mouth earlier that day but said he did give the tablets to the accused.

Witness, Eddie Byrne, told the trial that he saw Mr Lambe physically putting a big, blue tablet into the David Fortune's mouth, which he said was to calm him down.

Giving evidence, Ms Lambe said the accused had been hallucinating just before the stabbing, after consuming a number of tablets adding that her father had called him into the house for dinner to try to calm him down.

She told the court she heard her father scream at Gerard [Lambe] to get out of the room before David hit him.

Ms Lambe broke down in tears as she recounted how the accused was shouting at her father: “Da, I’m going to die” and that her father replied: “You’re not going to die, son. Nobody is going to die today.”

She claimed her half-brother was "blank" and his eyes were "black" as he swung at his father with a knife and stabbed him in the neck.
The victim was rushed to hospital by ambulance but was pronounced dead a short time later.

Aftermath

The court heard that after the stabbing, Fortune jumped through the front window before hijacking a car from a woman on Rutland Grove and driving to Blanchardstown Hospital where he ran through the hospital in a “frightened” state wearing only one shoe.

Fortune was arrested by gardaí who were alerted after he had been given Valium by staff in the hospital’s emergency department.

Several hospital staff gave evidence that Fortune claimed his father had been trying to stab him.

The accused’s sister, Anne-Marie O’Leary, said Fortune had contacted her that evening and said: “Da stabbed me”. He had also asked her to call the gardaí before hanging up.

Assistant State Pathologist, Dr Margot Bolster, said a post-mortem exam showed the deceased had suffered a 8cm stab wound above the collarbone on the left side of his neck which had cut through his carotid artery and jugular vein.

Dr Bolster attributed the cause of death as haemorrhage and shock due to a stab wound to the neck

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