Murder trial told farmer shot brother in burial 'row'

Fri, Mar 9, 2012, 00:00

A CO Wicklow farmer accused of murdering his older brother told a garda he shot him in a “row” over where their mother was to be buried, a court has heard.

Cecil Tomkins (63), of New Lodge Nursing Home, Stocking Lane, Rathfarnham, Dublin has pleaded not guilty to murdering Walter Tomkins (66) at Cronlea, Shillelagh on July 1st, 2010.

The court heard the accused suffers from Parkinson’s disease and that he and his brother never married.

It also heard their mother had been buried with her husband in Aghowle on the Monday before the incident, but it was her wish to be buried in Gorey with her own family.

Garda Christopher Murray asked the accused when he arrived at the farmhouse what happened, and cautioned him he would write down what he told him, but the accused told him there was a “row” over where his mother was to be buried.

“There was a row. My mother wanted to be buried in Kilcormac or Gorey but she was buried in Aghowle. I shot Walter because he buried her in Aghowle,” he said.

The court also heard the accused told his nephew Alan Tomkins that he had shot his uncle, that he was still groaning and to call an ambulance.

Garda Murray told Dominic McGinn SC, prosecuting, he had arrived at the house at 8pm and had spoken to the accused’s younger brother, Charles Tomkins, there.

“I had a quick look over at the deceased. He was lifeless and had a shot wound in his chest,” Garda Murray told the court.

He said Cecil was standing up with a walking stick in the hallway, that he asked him to come into the sitting room and he asked him what happened.

Garda Murray said he wrote down what the accused had told him before escorting him outside, where he sat in the back of a patrol car.

He said the ambulance arrived at 8.06pm and a doctor arrived and pronounced Walter Tomkins dead at 8.20pm.

Garda Murray said he went back to speak to Cecil and asked him what he used, to which he replied: “I used my own shotgun.” The accused also told him it had happened at about 6.30pm, saying: “I shot him once in the hallway.”

He was then arrested and brought to Baltinglass Garda station for questioning, where he was informed of his legal rights and told gardaí he would like to speak to a solicitor.

“He was very quiet, very passive and he co-operated with me as well and told me straight what had happened,” Garda Murray told the court.

Mr McGinn told the court in his opening speech they would hear evidence Walter Tomkins was shot from an estimated distance of nine feet.

He told the jury Deputy State Pathologist Khalid Jabbar’s report said Walter Tomkins died of a shotgun wound to the chest.

Mr McGinn told the jury it was the prosecution’s case that “Bella” wanted to be buried in Gorey, and that Walter didn’t follow her wishes, which upset Cecil and he shot his brother.

Retired scenes of crime officer John Foley said when he went into the house Walter Tomkins was at the end of a long section of hallway in a seated position leaning against the wall. He said there was shotgun wadding found underneath his body.

Alan Tomkins, a nephew of the brothers, told the court he was out working with his cousin Robert Stanley in the fields when Cecil Tomkins arrived down in his tractor.

“He just said he’d shot Walter and to call the ambulance service,” he told the court. He said he called his mother, Ivy Tomkins, and told her and his father, Charles, what Cecil had told him.

When asked by Mr McGinn how Cecil and Walter got on he replied: “They didn’t get on that well.”

He said the farm had been divided up into three and his dad and Cecil worked together, but “Walter did his own thing”.

He agreed with John O’Kelly SC that he had told gardaí Cecil “was an easy man to get on with and would always give you a few pounds”.

Charles Tomkins, who said he had not spoken to his brother for 30 years, said he arrived at the house two or three minutes after his son had called him.

He saw his brother Walter in the hallway and said he picked up the shotgun and threw it out of the house.

Charles said he was cleaning Walter’s bedroom the following September and found a biscuit tin under the wardrobe with an envelope with a letter in it.

He said there was a note saying: “I am to be buried in Gorey - Bella,” and “The money in this envelope is to pay for the grave in Gorey,” but Charles said there was no money in the envelope.

Charles’s wife Ivy Tomkins told the court the men got on together but that Cecil was very upset to discover that an envelope with his mother’s funeral wishes with some money in it had gone missing from a china cabinet in the house.

The court heard Walter and Cecil Tomkins lived with their parents their whole lives and their father died in 1999. Their brother Charles told the court he moved out of the house when he married his wife, Ivy, in 1977.

The court heard the farm had been divided between the three brothers by their father while he was still living. Cecil had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and was walking with the aid of a stick and was using a tractor more and more to get around the farm.

The trial continues.