Showjumper guilty of deception over sale of ‘wrong pony’ to family

Seán Ewing said animal he received from showjumper Michael Kearins was inferior

An international showjumper has been found guilty of deception by a majority jury verdict over the sale of a pony to a family who said the wrong animal was delivered to them.

After six hours and 53 minutes of deliberation the jury at Sligo Circuit Court convicted Michael Kearins (36), of Knockbeg, Collooney, Co Sligo, by a 10-2 majority. The accused, who currently lives in the US, had pleaded not guilty to a charge of deception between August 24th, 2012 and October 19th, 2012.

Judge Francis Comerford adjourned the case until Tuesday so that bail terms could be discussed.

After defence counsel Patrick O’Sullivan raised the issue of compensation, Judge Comerford said this was a case where restitution might have an impact on sentencing.


The jury of eight men and four women heard that Kearins sent a skewbald pony called Spot to an Irish family living in Majorca who had agreed to buy a different animal known to them as Buddy.

The injured party in the case, described by the prosecution as “a very organised and deceitful fraud”, was Donegal-born businessman Seán Ewing, who the jury heard had formerly been chairman of a billion-dollar company.

Mr Ewing said he contacted Kearins after seeing an advert on the Done Deal website for a pony. He and his family viewed two ponies being sold by Kearins – Buddy and a grey mare called Teddy.


The defence’s case was that the day before the animals were shipped to Majorca, Kearins’s neighbour Felix Burke, who owned Buddy, decided he no longer wanted to sell.

Kearins said he had discussed this by telephone with Ms Ewing who was anxious to get two ponies for her two daughters, and who gave him permission to find another pony.

The Ewings described his version as ludicrous and said that until the two ponies arrived on October 30th, 2012, they were expecting Buddy and Teddy to come. They said Spot was an inferior pony who was sick and had to be treated with antibiotics for a week due to infection.

Ms Ewing said Spot kicked her and was not suitable for her young daughter to ride. She said she would never have agreed to buy a pony she had not seen as the safety of her daughters was a priority.

Prosecution counsel Dara Foynes put it to the accused that it was a “nasty, deceitful” crime and said he sent Spot as that pony was a “ringer” for Buddy.

During the trial Det Garda Joe Scanlon said it took him more than four and a half years to contact the accused after Mr Ewing made an initial complaint to gardaí­ on November 1st, 2012, two days after the ponies were delivered. Kearins was living abroad at the point.

Det Scanlon said he eventually questioned the defendant in June 2017 when he came home for his grandfather’s funeral.

Marese McDonagh

Marese McDonagh

Marese McDonagh, a contributor to The Irish Times, reports from the northwest of Ireland