Man guilty of murdering elderly brothers in Co Mayo

Alan Cawley admitted killing Thomas and John Blaine in Castlebar but denied it was murder

Alan Cawley. Photograph: Keith Heneghan/Phocus

Alan Cawley. Photograph: Keith Heneghan/Phocus


A 30-year-old man has been sentenced to life in prison for the double murder of two elderly brothers with special needs in their Co Mayo home.

Alan Cawley of Four Winds, Corrinbla, Ballina, Co Mayo had admitted killing Thomas Blaine (69) and John (Jack) Blaine (76) but pleaded not guilty to their murder at their home at New Antrim Street in Castlebar on July 10th,2013. He bludgeoned them with a shovel and one of their walking sticks.

The defence argued that Cawley had three mental disorders which diminished his responsibility for the attacks and that he should have been found guilty of manslaughter.

The Central Criminal Court trial heard that Tom Blaine had schizophrenia and his brother had dementia, a tremor and a severe hunch in his back, having been involved in a serious accident on a building site years earlier.

The court heard that Cawley had been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and other disorders as a child. He had also been diagnosed with two personality disorders as an adult, was often on heavy medication, had developed a dependence on alcohol and prescription drugs and was in and out of both hospital and prison.

Cawley was released from Castlerea prison four days before the killings and was provided with B&B accommodation in Castlebar. He bought a bottle of wine around 5pm on July 9th and was seen drinking three pints of Guinness in pubs later that evening.

Junior doctor

Witnesses described him as behaving ‘crazy’, with him telling some pub customers that he was a junior doctor, who would be carrying out the postmortems on any bodies found that night.

CCTV footage then captured him walking through the town and crossing paths with Jack Blaine at around midnight. Mr Blaine had crossed the road to Rocky’s Bar a mug in his hand seeking tea, which was a frequent occurrence.

The barman noticed a young man interacting with Jack Blaine as he returned to his house and thought he was helping him across the street.

The young man was Cawley and CCTV captured him entering the Blaine house, with Jack Blaine following behind him.

Cawley told gardaí he had spent about 20 minutes upstairs searching for prescription drugs. He said he found nothing and that ‘the man’ was still downstairs when he came back down.

He claimed Jack Blaine, who the court heard was incontinent, was rubbing his genitals and that he believed he was making sexual advance on him. Cawley said he then picked up a shovel and beat him with it.

He said he then made his way to the front door, but saw another man in bed in a room at the front of the house. He decided to beat that man too and hit him with a stick about 25 times.

Cawley said he then thought that pouring boiling water over the first man’s genitals would be a ‘fitting punishment’. He turned on the kettle, waited for it to boil and poured the contents over his victim.

He left the house just over an hour after entering and walked back to his B&B.


The Blaine brothers’ home help arrived at their house at 7.15am. Describing them as ‘two absolute gentlemen, she said she got no response when she called out in her usual way: ‘Are you ready to rock and roll?’.

She entered Tom Blaine’s bedroom and found him lying in a pool of blood on the floor, with his legs still on the bed.

She ran out of the house screaming and raised the alarm before going to look for Jack Blaine, who was lying covered in blood in the back doorway.

A postmortem found Thomas Blaine’s cause of death was blood loss, brain trauma, chest trauma, and choking on blood due to blunt injuries to his head, face and chest. Contributory factors were blunt trauma to his limbs and fractures of his Adam’s apple, right wrist and hand bones.

The cause of Jack Blaine’s death was blunt force trauma to the head, which caused blood loss, brain injury and obstruction of breathing due to facial injuries. A scalding injury and blunt trauma to his chest and limbs were contributory factors.

Cawley’s legal team raised the partial defence of diminished responsibility, which can reduce murder to manslaughter.

Mr Justice Paul Coffey explained to the jury that, for that to happen, there had to be evidence that the accused was suffering from a mental disorder at the time of the killing and that such a disorder must have substantially diminished his responsibility for his acts.

The prosecution called a forensic psychiatrist in rebuttal. Her opinion was that he was not suffering from ADHD at the time.

Happy and safe

The deceased men’s cousin, Paul Dunne, read a victim impact statement which said the brothers kept to themselves, looked after each other and seemed happy and safe in Castlebar.

Mr Dunne said neither brother was a drinker, but that both were religious, and that the people of Castlebar used to keep an eye out for them.

He spoke about how much they were missed.

“The notepad I used to communicate with my cousins instead of shouting in their ears is no longer useful,” he said. “Not seeing Tommy sitting in his chair smiling is a terrible loss.”

He said they had not bothered with television or any luxuries, but enjoyed the simple things in life and would drink tea by the barrelful.

“Two simple men, two angels,” he commented. “May they rest in peace.”

Mr Justice Coffey described the killings as savage and imposed a mandatory life sentence on Cawley.