Yousef Palani jailed for life for murder of Aidan Moffitt and Michael Snee in Sligo

Gardaí believe double murderer would have continued to kill gay men if he had not been arrested

A man who murdered two men in Sligo last year and who targeted his victims due to “hostility and prejudice” towards gay men has been sentenced to life imprisonment

Yousef Palani (23) murdered two men and seriously assaulted a third during a four-day spree of violence in Sligo town. Gardaí believe he would have continued to kill gay men if he had not been arrested.

Palani tracked the men down using an LGBT dating app before stabbing them to death in their homes and mutilating their bodies.

The attacks triggered a massive Garda manhunt with armed officers visiting the homes of gay men around the town as they tried to track down Palani. With the assistance of witnesses, including Anthony Burke, a local man who had survived Palani’s first attack, gardaí traced Palani to his home and arrested him.


Palani, last of Markievicz Heights in Sligo, admitted the offences and was sentenced at the Central Criminal Court in Dublin on Monday. He sat with his head down for most of the hearing, wearing a zipped up sports jacket.

At the Central Criminal Court he pleaded guilty to the murder of Aidan Moffitt at Cartron Heights in Sligo on April 10th, 2022, and the murder of Michael Snee at City View, Connaughton Road, Sligo, on April 12th, 2022.

He further pleaded guilty to causing serious harm to Mr Burke at Cleveragh Road in Sligo on April 9th, 2022.

On Monday, Ms Justice Mary Ellen Ring imposed a mandatory life sentence on each count of murder. She also sentenced Palani to 20 years for the attack on Mr Burke. The sentences will run concurrently.

Ms Justice Ring said he had committed “unspeakable violence” against three innocent men.

Ms Justice Ring acknowledged that the men were “cherished and valuable” members of their communities. She said they were complete human beings, where their sexuality was just a part of who they were. She said that they and their families have “nothing to be ashamed of”, adding that “shame is borne in this court by one person alone”.

The judge continued by saying that each of the three men should be proud of what they were to themselves and all who knew them.

The sentencing hearing heard gardaí believe Palani would have continued to kill had he not been arrested.

Evidence shows he targeted gay Irish men who lived alone. He sought to tie up his victims before stabbing them to death.

In the case of Mr Moffit, he cut the victim’s head off and placed it on the bed facing the door.

In interview, Palani at first denied any involvement but went on to make full admissions. He claimed he heard voices which told him to carry out the attacks.

Palani, who is originally from Iraq and came to Ireland with his family when he was six years old, repeatedly insisted he was not gay despite forensic evidence showing he engaged in sexual activity with at least one victim.

Det Gda Conor Jordan told Lorcan Staines, prosecuting, that gardaí believe Palani carried out the attacks due to “hostility and prejudice” against gay men.

He said there is no evidence to support Palani’s claim of mental health issues and believe his account of hearing voices may be exaggerated or fabricated entirely.

The court also heard that while Palani told gardaí that his religion forbids homosexuality, investigators were satisfied that he was not radicalised. Palani told gardaí in interviews that Muslims could not be homosexual and vehemently denied being gay, despite using gay dating apps.

Det Gda Jordan said there is no evidence Palani, who is a Muslim, was radicalised “despite some suggestions to the contrary”. The Garda also praised the Islamic and immigrant community for their assistance in the investigation.

In his victim impact statement, Mr Burke said that on the night of the incident he thought he was meeting someone to have “an intimate moment with”. “I didn’t realise I was going to meet a coward and a monster that would destroy my life. My heart goes out to Aidan and Michael’s families for the suffering they have to endure,” he added.

Mr Burke said he has been very distressed since the attack, was in “fierce pain” at the time and had suffered insomnia. He said he experienced heightened anxiety, his mood deteriorated, that he entertained suicidal thoughts and was prescribed antidepressants. He said he was very restricted in how he can now access employment due to his injury and that he can no longer drive buses or trucks and cannot hold a licence for them.

Mr Burke said he has felt so much sadness, guilt and shame since the attack. “The area this happened is local to me and I have to walk there every day. Every time I walk there I see Yousef Palani shoving the knife in my eye. The fear I felt and I remember him watching me to see if I would collapse”.

Michael Bowman SC, for Palani, said he was instructed to offer an apology on behalf of his client who struggled to comprehend and understand the enormity of what he had done. “He recognises the pain, loss and suffering on the deceased and the injured party. He accepts he acted grotesquely and without explanation or justification,” said the lawyer.

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime and Security Correspondent of The Irish Times