Gardaí investigate hate-related motive in murder probes of two Sligo men

The bodies of 58-year-old Michael Snee and 42-year-old Aidan Moffitt were discovered with similar injuries in recent days
Gardaí investigate hate-related motive in murder probes of two Sligo men

Updated 2.20pm

Gardaí are investigating a potential hate-related motive following the killing and mutilation of two men in Sligo town in recent days.

Two separate murder investigations have been launched following the violent deaths of Aidan Moffitt (42) and Michael Snee (58) in their own homes in the town on the west coast.

Investigators believe the two men were killed by a man they met on an online dating app and are investigating if there was a homophobic element to the crimes, according to a report in The Irish Times.

They are also investigating if the killings are linked to a stabbing attack of another man in the town last weekend, which saw the victim lose an eye.

A man in his 20s was arrested in Sligo on suspicion of murder during the early hours of this morning, after the discovery of Mr Snee’s body in his apartment on Connaughton Road at around 10.30pm on Tuesday evening.

Garda chief superintendent Aidan Glacken told a press conference in Sligo that Mr Snee “had been subject of a serious physical assault and had suffered significant injuries.”

The officer said gardaí are conducting a separate murder investigation into the death of businessman and Fine Gael activist Mr Moffitt, who was found dead in his house in Cartron Heights in Sligo on Monday evening.

Mr Moffitt "had also been the subject of a serious physical assault and had suffered significant injuries," he said.

“Michael and Aidan were well-known and respected in this community. They were assaulted and murdered in their own homes. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families at this time and indeed their friends and the wider community in Sligo,” Mr Glacken said.

Gardaí are providing support to the families of both victims and family liaison officers have been provided.

Mr Glacken said a senior investigating officer is in charge of each murder investigation, supported by an incident room. “Substantial Garda resources are dedicated to these investigations with further support from regional and national units,” he said.

“Both scenes have been sealed off and remain so, the Garda Technical Bureau are conducting a detailed forensic examination of each scene.

“A postmortem was carried out on the remains of Aidan Moffitt, yesterday, at University Hospital Sligo by Dr Sally Ann Collis, State Pathologist. A postmortem will be carried out on the remains of Michael Snee later today. I am not releasing any details of the postmortem examination for operational reasons.”

Mr Glacken said gardaí were continuing “to retain an open mind” in their investigations.

“I would like to thank the community for their cooperation and assistance so far - information received from across the community continues to assist us in our investigation. It is heartening to see such cross community support at this time,” he said.

Garda superintendent Aidan Glacken (centre) speaking to the media outside Sligo Garda station. Photo: PA Images

“I continue to appeal to the public for their assistance in that regard.

“We are actively investigating as to whether there is any hate-related motive to these murders. An Garda Síochána 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.

“Gardaí are also investigating whether Michael and Aidan met their attacker online. Meeting people online is a normal activity. Meeting people online should be a safe activity. But as with any online activity, everybody should be aware of personal safety advice, which we have provided on the Garda website.

“We continue to explore all the circumstances of these cases and are examining another recent incident which occurred in the Sligo area. 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.”

Earlier this morning, the Taoiseach said he was “deeply concerned” by the “horrific” killing of Mr Moffitt, offering sympathies to his family and friends, and by the reports of the second violent death this morning.

He urged anyone with information to contact gardaí.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said he was “deeply troubled” by the killings. “What happened is unspeakable and hard to fathom. Concerned about the possible motive of the attacker,” he said on Twitter.

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said she had spoken to the Garda Commissioner about the “shocking events”. She added: “An Garda Síochána will investigate these appalling crimes and ensure justice is done.”

Armed gardaí

Following the discovery of the second body on Tuesday night, armed gardaí flooded Sligo town as they tried to track down the suspect.

“At approximately 1.45am following intense local Garda activity and enquiries, gardaí in Sligo assisted by the Armed Support Unit arrested a male in his early 20s in Sligo town on suspicion of murder,” a Garda statement said.

He is now being detained for questioning at Sligo Town Garda station under section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act.

Mr Glacken said on Wednesday morning he could make no further comment with respect to this aspect of the investigation.

The body of the second victim remained at the scene this morning pending the arrival of the Garda technical bureau and the state pathologist, with a postmortem due to be carried out.

A Garda forensic officer at the scene in Cartron Heights, Sligo, following the death of Aidan Moffitt. Photo: PA Images

Gardaí last night officially launched a murder investigation into the death of the first victim, Mr Moffitt, and confirmed they were investigating if he had met his attacker online.

Gardaí suspect Mr Moffitt had invited the attacker into his home after meeting him on a dating app, with there being no signs of forced entry.

On Tuesday, they appealed for people to take precautions when meeting strangers online. Both victims were single men who lived alone.

Locals have spoken of a “cloud of worry and fear” hanging over the town of Sligo following the two violent deaths and a serious attack on another man.

Gardaí are continuing to appeal to anyone with any information on the crimes to contact officers at Sligo Garda station. "No matter how insignificant you think it may be, we need to hear from you," Mr Glacken said.

"I would like to reassure the public that all any information received will be treated in the strictest confidence."

Anyone with information about the incidents can contact Sligo Garda station on the dedicated incident room phone number 071 915 7088, the Garda Confidential Line on 1800 666 111 or any Garda station.

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