Man (34) due for sentencing after admitting to impeding Cork murder inquiry

Accused drove suspect away from scene of fatal assault in Skibbereen, court hears

The accused  pleaded guilty on June 8th this year to the offence which followed the death of Cornwall native Jonathan Ustic (51) at a house in High Street in Skibbereen in 2017. Photograph: Dave Meehan

The accused pleaded guilty on June 8th this year to the offence which followed the death of Cornwall native Jonathan Ustic (51) at a house in High Street in Skibbereen in 2017. Photograph: Dave Meehan

 

A 34-year-old man has been remanded on bail for sentencing after he pleaded guilty to impeding the apprehension or prosecution of another person for the killing of a father-of-one in west Cork four years ago.

Thomas Fitchett had pleaded guilty on June 8th this year to the offence which followed the death of Cornwall native Jonathan Ustic (51) at a house in High Street in Skibbereen on September 24th, 2017.

The charge states that Fitchett impeded the apprehension or prosecution of another person not before the courts for Mr Ustic’s murder, contrary to Section 7(2) of the Criminal Justice Act 1997.

Today at the Central Criminal Court sitting in Cork, Det Sgt Kevin Long outlined the circumstances of the offence which happened after Mr Ustic was assaulted by another man in a car park on High Street.

Mr Ustic hit his head off the ground as he was being pulled from the car by the other man and CCTV footage suggested he was lying on the ground for 24 minutes before he was taken into the house.

Mr Ustic was carried into the house by Fitchett and the other man at 8.03pm on September 24th, 2019, and that was the last time that he was seen alive, Det Sgt Long told the Central Criminal Court.

Fitchett and the other man left the house at 10.29pm in Fitchett’s car and they were later involved in a serious collision at Clounties, Dunmanway, which resulted in Fitchett having to be taken to hospital.

Prosecution counsel, Tim O’Leary, said the essence of the State’s case against Fitchett was that he drove the other man away from the house in Skibbereen following the serious assault on Mr Ustic.

Serious assault

Ms Justice Eileen Creedon asked what was Fitchett’s knowledge of Mr Ustic at that point and Det Sgt Long said that Fitchett would not have known at that stage that Mr Ustic had been fatally injured.

However, Det Sgt Long said Fitchett would have known that Mr Ustic had been victim of a serious assault at the time that he went to drive the other man away from the house in Skibbereen.

Det Sgt Long said that Fitchett had no relevant previous convictions and had not come to adverse Garda attention since this incident and was currently working in a biscuit factory in Co Cork.

Mr O’Leary told the court that the maximum sentence for the offence of impeding the apprehension or prosecution of another person was one of ten years.

Defence counsel, Elizabeth O’Connell, pleaded for leniency, pointing out that Fitchett had, by virtue of his guilty plea, spared the State “a difficult and long trial” if it had gone to a contest.

She said her client, who is originally from Kippagh, Dunmanway, had a difficult family background where both his parents were drinking a lot and he was exposed to a lot of violence as a child.

Ms O’Connell said her client, who lost his father at the age of 14, had done well to overcome such a chaotic upbringing and reach a point where he was now working in a biscuit factory.

She said that Fitchett had not come to any Garda attention since this incident and she believed that he was unlikely to pose any risk of reoffending or coming before the courts again.

Ms Justice Creedon said that she felt the court would benefit from a probation report on Fitchett and she remanded him on bail to appear again at the Central Criminal Court in Dublin on March 7th.