A 40-year-old man who kicked and stamped a fellow homeless man to such an extent that he was “almost unrecognisable” to family members who identified his body in the morgue has been jailed for life.
Christopher O’Sullivan, who is originally from Co Kerry, pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Timothy “Timmy” Hourihane on October 13th, 2019 at a “tented village” in Mardyke Walk, Cork City.
A Central Criminal Court sitting in Cork heard that Mr Hourihane suffered severe facial trauma, brain swelling, broken facial bones and battering of his teeth in the attack. O’Sullivan carried out the assault with an accomplice who has already been jailed for 11 years in relation to the assault.
Det Supt Michael Comyns said that the assault on a grass verge was so severe that one of the teeth of the victim was found in his stomach during the postmortem.
Mr Hourihane, who was a gifted chef, died of inhalation of blood and cardiac arrest. The father of one also sustained a collapsed lung and severe facial and head trauma arising out of the unprovoked attack.
The assault on the 53-year-old, who was from Kilcrohane in the Sheep’s Head Peninsula, West Cork, occurred near his tent in the makeshift village.
Members of the public went to the assistance of Mr Hourihane but he died a short time later at Cork University Hospital.
O’Sullivan was originally due to stand trial for murder. However, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter last year after he was informed that such a plea was acceptable to the State.
Det Supt Michael Comyns told the hearing that Mr Hourihane, O’Sullivan and his co-accused James Brady were living in the tented village in the Mardyke area near University College Cork in October 2019.
The court heard that the atmosphere was strained among members of the homeless community who were living in proximity to each other in tents.
Det Supt Michael Comyns said that O’Sullivan had spent the majority of October 12th, 2019 drinking. He had turned 37 that day.
Mr Hourihane left the tented village at 10.58pm and returned alone at 12.22am.
Witnesses who were going to a house in the area reported that Mr Hourihane was immediately “set upon” by a man later identified as Brady. Brady was finger-pointing, shouting and pushing Mr Hourihane.
Det Supt Comyns told the court that O’Sullivan was being held back by his then partner. However, O’Sullivan broke free from the grip of the woman. Mr Hourihane was subsequently “severely assaulted” by both men.
Det Supt Comyns said that the men started “kicking and stamping” Mr Hourihane until he fell to the ground. He stated that witnesses informed Gardaí that O’Sullivan continued to assault Mr Hourihane even after his accomplice had withdrawn.
O’Sullivan has 48 previous convictions for serious and violent crimes including assault causing serious harm, robbery, burglary, criminal damage, drugs offences and possession of knives.
A victim impact statement from Eliot Hourihane, the only son of Timmy Hourihane, was read in court.
Eliot Hourihane said he could not 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,” he said.
Siobhán Lankford, SC for the prosecution, said that the crime fell into the “highest category of manslaughter”.
Róisín Lacey, SC for the defence, said that her client wanted to offer his sincere apology to the family of Mr Hourihane for his role in the death of their loved one.
Mr Justice Paul McDermott said that life imprisonment was an “appropriate sentence” for a person who had such a serious track record of offending.
“Unless his issues are addressed he will have a high risk of reoffending. This was wanton violence,” the court was told.
Mr Hourihane gave an interview to The Irish Times on Christmas day in 2017 when he was in eating his Christmas meal at the Penny Dinners soup kitchen in Cork City.
At the time Mr Hourihane 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 to acquire a black sense of humour whilst living on the streets.
“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 because you think why didn’t they take the two?”