A man under the influence of weed, coke, xanax, lager and spirits repeatedly stamped on the head and body of a fellow homeless man during a severe and vicious assault which led to his death, a court has heard.
Christopher O'Sullivan (40), who is originally from Co Kerry, pleaded guilty in November last year to the unlawful killing of former chef Timothy "Timmy" Hourihane on October 13th, 2019, at Mardyke Walk in Cork city.
Mr O’Sullivan, whom the court heard had a long history of extreme violence, was joined in the attack by his accomplice James Brady (28) of Mayfield in Cork. Mr Brady was previously jailed for 11 years for the manslaughter of Mr Hourihane.
A sentencing hearing at the Central Criminal Court sitting in Cork heard that Mr Hourihane died of inhalation of blood and cardiac arrest.
His postmortem also indicated that he had sustained a collapsed lung and severe facial and head trauma arising out of the unprovoked attack.
Such was the severity of the beating he endured that he swallowed a tooth which was found in his stomach in postmortem.
The assault on the 53-year-old, who was from Kilcrohane in the Sheep's Head Peninsula in Co Cork, occurred in a "tented village" near University College Cork.
Members of the public went to the assistance of Mr Hourihane who had been badly beaten. However, he died a short time later at Cork University Hospital.
Mr O’Sullivan was originally due to stand trial for the murder of the father of one. However, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter after he was informed that such a plea was acceptable to the State.
Det Supt Michael Comyns told the hearing that Mr Hourihane, Mr O’Sullivan and his co-accused, James Brady, were living in the tented village in the Mardyke in October 2019.
The court heard that the atmosphere was strained among members of the homeless community living in the village at the time of the passing of Timmy Hourihane.
Det Supt Michael Comyns said that Mr O’Sullivan had spent the majority of October 12th, 2019, drinking. It was his birthday.
Timmy Hourihane had left the tented village at 10.58pm and returned alone at 12.22am. Mr O’Sullivan had also left the area and returned just a minute before Hourihane according to CCTV footage harvested in the area. He was in the company of his former partner, Kathleen O’Brien, and his co-accused, James Brady.
Witnesses who were going to a house in the area later reported that Mr Hourihane was “set upon” by a man later identified as Mr Brady. Brady was finger pointing and shouting.
Det Supt Comyns told the court that O’Sullivan was being held back by his partner Kathleen. However, Hourihane was subsequently “severely assaulted” on a grass verge by both men.
He said that the men were “kicking and stamping” Hourihane until he fell to the ground. He said that Hourihane sustained facial trauma, broken facial bones and shattered teeth in the incident.
Det Supt Comyns stated that witnesses informed them that O’Sullivan continued to assault Mr Hourihane even after Brady had withdrawn. When he finally stopped O’Sullivan placed his top on a fire and set fire to the tent of Timmy Hourihane.
He also said that O’Sullivan disposed of his other clothes in another fire at the back of the tented village. Members of the public raised the alarm and Mr Hourihane was rushed to hospital where he died.
The tented village was subsequently deemed a crime scene and occupants were accommodated by the Simon Community. Mr O’Sullivan gave a witness statement to gardai in which he claimed that had been asleep in his tent on the night of the attack and only woke when gardai arrived at the scene.
Det Supt Comyns told Mr Justice Paul McDermott that the attack only lasted three to five minutes. However, its impact was "devastating."
Mr O’Sullivan has 48 previous convictions for extremely serious crimes including assault causing serious harm, robbery, burglary criminal damage, drugs offences and possession of knives.
Det Supt Comyns said a man spent two months in a coma in 2007 and “never really recovered” after being assaulted by Mr O’Sullivan. Mr O’Sullivan was jailed for six years in relation to the offence.
A victim impact statement from Eliot Hourihane, the only son of Timmy Hourihane, was read in court.
Mr Hourihane said he couldn’t begin to explain how “angry and sad” the violent passing of his father had made him.
“You don’t get those kinds of injuries my Dad sustained if they weren’t trying to end his life. I pray that the person involved is dealt with severely as he has left a son without a father, a mother without a son and siblings without their brother. As an only child I feel like I need to fight for him (Timmy Hourihane) until the end.”
A victim impact statement from the family of the deceased was also read in to the record. Mr Hourihane’s two siblings and his sister-in-law were present in court. Eliot Hourihane lives overseas.
In their statement the family said that their lives “changed instantly and irrevocably” when Timothy’s head “was kicked in and he was left for dead” by two violent people in a “unprovoked’ and “brutal attack.”
“With a history of brutal and violent behaviour the defendant knew well what he was doing and what the outcome would be and he still didn’t care. He had the presence of mind to burn his bloody clothes in a nearby fire hoping he’d get away with it, while Timothy lay dying.”
Siobhan Lankford SC, for the prosecution, said the crime fell in to the "highest category of manslaughter."
Roisin Lacey SC, for the defence, said her client wanted to offer his sincere apology to the family of Mr Hourihane for his role in the death of their loved one.
Ms Lacey said Mr O’Sullivan had told a consultant during his assessment that he deserved to be punished for what he did to Mr Hourihane. He said “Timmy ended up dead” and “they (he and Brady) caused it.”
Ms Lacey said her client had indicated that he was under the influence of a variety of drugs and alcohol when he carried out the beating.
Mr Justice Paul McDermott adjourned sentencing in the case until 11am on Friday. Mr O’Sullivan was remanded in custody overnight.
Meanwhile, in April last year James Brady of Shannon Lawn in Mayfield, Cork was jailed for 11 years for the manslaughter of Mr Hourihane.
Following a four-week murder trial, which was heard at a sitting of the Central Criminal Court in Waterford, the jury opted to instead unanimously convict Brady of the manslaughter of Mr Hourihane, who worked for a period for the Hilton Hotel Chain in the UK having trained as chef.
During the course of his work he served both Elton John and Lionel Richie. Dept Supt Comyns said that Hourihane was a “well-known chef.”
Timmy said he had a feeling of immense gratitude for the blessings of the day. He spoke of his delight in simple pleasures such as going to mass. He said it was important to try and acquire a black sense of humour whilst living on the streets.
He appreciated the special meal provided by the River Lee Hotel and was enjoying the Christmas music having just come from mass.
He mentioned his sadness at the death of homeless woman Kathleen O'Sullivan (43) who had passed away on the streets of Cork just weeks earlier.
"Homelessness is out of control. I knew Kathleen O’Sullivan. She had a good heart for me.
"When you sleep on the streets you are lucky to wake up with your trainers still on. It has happened to me where I have woken up with one trainer missing. You have to laugh cos you think why didn’t they take the two?
Timmy was lavish in his praise of Caitriona Twomey who runs Penny Dinners saying that she had "the most beautiful heart in Cork city." He also spoke on the Neil Prendeville show on Cork's Red FM in the winter of 2018.
Timmy told the radio station that he had been assaulted a number of times on the streets.
“I have been attacked three times. The last attack happened two weeks ago. I didn’t have a cent in my pocket and they probably thought I had something. (At night) I feel cold and not safe.”