The fiancee of a 22-year-old man bludgeoned to death with a rock has described how she had to replace her wedding bouquet with a wreath.
The testimony was heard as part of a victim impact statement read on Thursday to the Central Criminal Court in Dublin, where a 29-year-old man was sentenced to life in prison for murdering the young woman's fiance.
Thomas O'Connor of Burnaby Court, Greystones, had been charged with murdering John O'Brien, who was from Burnaby Lawns in Greystones, on June 4th, 2010.
The father of two had pleaded not guilty to murder, but guilty to the 22-year-old's manslaughter at Farrankelly Road, Delgany, Co Wicklow.
At Thursday’s sentence hearing, Detective Sergeant Eamon O’Neill read a number of victim impact statements.
The court heard that the deceased met his future fiancee, Alice O’Brien, in 2009.Their wedding was set for September 2010.
The court heard that the couple had started preparing for the wedding day and had booked the hotel.
“The most heartbreaking moment,” said Ms O’Brien, “was going back to the florist and changing the bouquet”.
“I could only think of turning it into a special goodbye wreath. I could never imagine turning a wedding bouquet into a wreath.”
During the trial, the court was told how O’Connor and Mr O’Brien had started drinking together after bumping into one another outside a supermarket hours before the fatal attack.
O’Connor had admitted hitting Mr O’Brien over the head with the boulder “two or three times” but said he only did so to protect himself after his friend attacked him.
A postmortem later revealed Mr O’Brien died from “catastrophic injuries” as a result of blunt force trauma to the head.
The court also heard that O’Connor had tried to destroy evidence by scrubbing his hands clean in a friend’s house and burning his hoodie top in a nearby field after he was left covered in the dead man’s blood.
The victim’s mother, Bridget, described the emptiness in the mornings without him. “They are so quiet and lonely. There is no laughter.”
The victim’s father, James O’Brien, said that the morning after his son’s killing O’Connor came to the family’s house and said he had been out drinking with John. “He looked me straight in the eye and swore he left John at the roundabout,” Mr O’Brien said.
“All the while he knew my son was dead and he had killed him.”
He said that the death of his son has destroyed his family.
“We had to leave Greystones, a place where John said he always felt safe.”
He added that the family had go through the trauma of a court case “not once but twice”.
This was the second time O’Connor was convicted of Mr O’Brien’s murder.
In June 2010, he was found guilty following a trial.
13 previous convictions
But in November 2014 the Court of Criminal Appeal overturned this verdict and ordered a retrial.
O’Connor has 13 previous convictions, for offences including theft, burglary and criminal damage, as well as public order and road traffic offences.
His counsel, Feargal Kavanagh SC, read a statement on behalf of his client, in which O’Connor said that he was “deeply sorry for the pain and suffering” he had inflicted.
Ms Justice Margaret Heneghan said that the victim impact statements were "very powerful" and demonstrated the many victims of crime, "the family members of the deceased and indeed the young children of Thomas O'Connor".
She sentenced O’Connor to life in prison.
The sentence was backdated to June 5th, 2010.