Declan Brennan and Fiona Ferguson
A man who shot his sister dead in a tragic accident has been jailed for two years.
Derek Boyd (28) told gardaí that by killing his 34-year-sister through an accidental discharge of an illegally-held loaded semi-automatic pistol last March, he committed “an unpardonable sin” for which he will pay for the rest of his life.
The court heard he had acquired the firearm because he was in fear for his own and his family’s safety.
Boyd pleaded guilty last month to the manslaughter of his sister, Sandra Boyd, at his home in Collins Place, Finglas, Dublin on March 19th this year. He also admitted unlawful possession of a semi-automatic pistol and ammunition.
At an earlier sentence hearing, his mother, Teresa Boyd, asked the judge to let her son out of prison. She said the fatal shooting shattered their family and left her son “broken beyond compare”.
“He will relive this nightmare for the rest of his life. He will struggle to live his life. I wish I could turn back time and have all my children be with me,” she said.
Tragic and unusual case
Judge Pauline Codd on Friday said this was a tragic, serious and unusual case. She noted Boyd would have to live with the fact that he had killed his own sister for the rest of his life. But she said the court must mark the gravity of taking up illegal arms, whatever the pressures.
Judge Codd noted the irony that, by taking the law into his own hands and acquiring a firearm that he did not know how to use safely, Boyd had inflicted the loss on his family which he had feared would be visited on them by others.
She read from a letter handed into court by Boyd in which he outlined how he regretted lowering himself to pick up a firearm in the first place. He said that procuring a gun had been the “biggest mistake of my life”.
The judge noted that there were exceptional circumstances in the case which allowed her to depart from the presumptive minimum sentence of five years for the firearms charges. She also took into account the close relationship between the siblings, his remorse and the forgiveness of his family.
Judge Codd imposed a five-year sentence with the final three years suspended for the firearms offences and four years with the final two years suspended for the manslaughter. She ordered that both sentences run concurrently.
The court heard that the family had gathered on the night to celebrate Mrs Boyd's birthday and at one point another sister was leaving and the defendant was walking her out to the front door.
Boyd told gardaí that he had armed himself with a gun some weeks before because of threats made to him and his family from a “gangland” figure. The court heard this happened after Boyd had gone to this man to ask why his teenage nephew had been beaten up.
He said that on the night of the accident he was still afraid of these threats and was secretly holding the gun in his pocket when he walked his sister out. He had cocked the gun to arm it and when he went back inside he took it out when nobody was watching him to disarm it.
He said he was pulling the slide back to eject the bullet in the chamber when his finger slipped and the gun fired. Boyd described an enormous bang and his sister dropping to the ground.
He dropped to her side and began saying, “please help her, I'm sorry”. He heard somebody saying, “She is going to be OK, just run” and he left, later telling gardaí he felt ashamed and sorry for leaving her like that.
When gardaí arrived, the victim was still alive and they were told that a gunman had entered the house and shot her and fled. She was rushed to hospital where she was pronounced dead, the bullet having entered her chest and damaged her heart causing massive internal bleeding.
A solicitor for Boyd contacted gardaí the next day to say he was in a psychiatric ward and would provide a statement on discharge. Three days later he was discharged and arrested, presenting to gardaí as “utterly inconsolable”.
He told gardaí he loved his sister and would never intentionally do anything to hurt her. He said he wanted to be punished.
He said he couldn't name who he got the gun from because that would put his family at risk.
Michael Bowman SC, defending, told the court on a previous date that this was an exceptional case and he asked Judge Codd to use the court's discretion to reunite his client with his family.