Four brothers guilty of killing Armagh couple

Siblings who torched home of sex offender also found guilty of attempted arson

Niall, Martin, Christopher and Stephen Smith were unanimously found guilty of manslaughter at Armagh Crown Court.

Niall, Martin, Christopher and Stephen Smith were unanimously found guilty of manslaughter at Armagh Crown Court.

Wed, Dec 4, 2013, 01:00

Four brothers who torched the home of a sex offender and his 21-year-old girlfriend have been found guilty of manslaughter.

Niall, Martin, Christopher and Stephen Smith were unanimously found guilty by a jury at Armagh Crown Court.

The brothers, who had consistently denied murdering Thomas O’Hare (33) and Lisa McClatchey at their home in Tassagh, near Keady, Co Armagh, in November 2006, were also found guilty of attempted arson.

During the four-week trial it emerged that, in the late 1980s and early 1990s aged 17, Mr O’Hare had sexually abused Stephen Smith, the youngest of the brothers, when he was about eight years old.

The court heard the brothers hatched their plan after Stephen Smith saw his abuser driving in and out of the housing estate where his family lived during the summer of 2006.They claimed they were concerned Mr O’Hare would sexually abuse their children.

The brothers, who denied the double murder, had claimed they wanted to burn the couple’s house at Foley Road in an attempt to force Mr O’Hare out of the area. Their defence teams claimed killing either victims was never part of the plan.

Days after the attack, Mr O’Hare and Ms McClatchey succumbed to multiple organ failure as a result of the serious burns which covered 80 per cent of their bodies.

Mr O’Hare had been beaten with hammers before the house was sprayed with petrol and set alight, the court heard.

Outside there were emotional scenes as relatives of both the defendants and victims cried and clutched each other for support.

Molly Smith, the brothers’ mother said she was relieved the case had ended. “I am just glad it’s all over and it can now bring peace to the three families and we can all now move on. God bless everyone.”

Relatives of Lisa McClatchey declined to comment.

The case has taken seven years to get to court because the brothers went on the run. An hour after the fatal fire, four men appeared at a hospital in Co Louth with critical burns and were later transferred to Dublin for specialist treatment.

Martin Smith of Kevlin Glen, Omagh, Co Tyrone was arrested by gardaí in Dundalk while Niall Smith from Mourneview Park, Lurgan, Co Armagh, was detained in north Dublin.

He had been put into an induced coma for more than two weeks and told the court during the trial that he was devastated when he woke up to learn that the couple had died.

Christopher Smith from Mourneview, Mowhan, Co Armagh, was arrested in England while Stephen Smith, of the same address, was extradited from Sydney, Australia, in March.

The jury of six men and six women took almost seven hours to reach its verdict.

None of the brothers showed any emotion as the foreman told the court that all four had been found not guilty of double murder but were guilty of the couple’s manslaughter.

The foreman also said the jury were all agreed that the brothers were not guilty of arson but convicted them of attempted arson.

Judge Mr Justice Weatherup said the men would be sentenced at a later date and ordered that they be taken to the cells.

Discharging the jurors and excusing them for life, the judge said: “This has been a long matter, a complicated matter and a difficult matter.”

The public gallery in Armagh courthouse was packed with family members and supporters of both victims and defendants.

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