Life sentence for kicking man to death

Thu, Dec 6, 2012, 00:00

An internet and call shop owner has been sentenced to life in prison for murdering a customer, whom he kicked to death after he refused to pay in full for a 70-cent phone call.

Zhen Dong Zhao (36), Jervis Street, Dublin, had pleaded not guilty at the Central Criminal Court to murdering Noel Fegan (40) on May 20th, 2011. However, he admitted kicking the father of two outside his shop, e-Times, on Wellington Quay.

Mr Fegan was originally from Finglas, but the reformed drug addict had been living in Aughrim Street. He had gone into the shop to phone his 11-year-old daughter from whom he had received a “call me” text.

Daughter’s statement

His daughter testified through a statement that she spoke to her father for a minute and a half. However, Mr Fegan told Zhao he did not get through as he walked towards the front door.

Zhao showed him the 70- cent total on the phone system screen but the trial heard Mr Fegan refused to pay this; various witnesses said he offered between 10 cent and 40 cent.

Zhao tried to prevent him leaving but Mr Fegan got away, with some customers saying he hit Zhao before he left. Zhao followed him outside and kicked him a number of times in the back, head and neck. Mr Fegan died soon afterwards of bleeding to the brain.

An autopsy found that arteries in Mr Fegan’s neck had been torn due to blunt force trauma. His taking of anticoagulant medicine for a pulmonary embolism was a contributory factor in his death.

Following a 12-day trial, the jury of eight men and four women took just under 10 hours over 2½ days to reach a guilty verdict by a 10 to two majority.

It was the prosecution’s case that Zhao was the aggressor and that Mr Fegan had posed no threat to him. The State described Mr Fegan as defenceless when he was on the ground outside.

Pauline Walley SC, prosecuting, said the “savage” kicks to the back of his head had resulted in his death.

She reminded the jury of the evidence of Mr Fegan’s friend, John Wynn, who said Zhao seemed proud of what he had done to Mr Fegan and gave a two-finger gesture afterwards.

The defence had argued for a verdict of manslaughter as a result of provocation. Brendan Grehan SC, defending, told the jury that one could snap, see red and react as a result of something someone had done, in this case the slap to Zhao’s face.

Not about the money

Zhao had told detectives that he had had trouble with customers not paying in the past, but that this was not about the money. “It was about him hitting me and his attitude,” he said in a Garda interview.

He said that anger had built up after similar and worse episodes and had caused him to lose control.

He said one customer had refused to pay a €30 phone bill he had clocked up. “I wanted to warn them not to do this,” he said. “When these people are around, other people are afraid to come in.”

He said he was referring to drinkers, drug addicts and people who spoke loudly and rudely. Although he did not like “these people”, he was sorry Mr Fegan had died.