A senior judge has said the “shocking and horrifying” case of a man who stabbed his daughter’s partner to death whilst high on a cocktail of drugs established without doubt “the danger of drugs”, which had turned “a gentle giant into a demonic, murdering hulk”.
Ms Justice Tara Burns on Friday sentenced Mark Whelan (48) to the mandatory term of life imprisonment for the murder of Noel 'Noelie' Whelan (22), saying that the only person he had to blame was himself. "The State services have not failed you, you have failed yourself. Because of drugs you lost your wife and a happy home. Because of your continued use of drugs you deprived your daughter of a partner and your granddaughter of a father," she added.
Mark Whelan of Castlecurragh Heath, Mulhuddart, Dublin 15 was found guilty by a unanimous jury verdict of the murder of Noel 'Noelie' Whelan (22) at his home in Castlecurragh Heath on March 30th, 2019. The trial heard that Mark Whelan was high on drugs when he stabbed and slashed his victim 18 times, with one of the wounds severing the victim's carotid artery and another penetrating his lungs.
Last month, Sharon Whelan told the sentence hearing for her father Mark that her life had been "ruined" by a man she trusted with her life. She said her partner Noel Whelan had "a big smile on his face" when he first saw scans of his baby daughter, but he will never get to hold her. "He will never see his first child take her first steps or see the beautiful little girl she has become," she said.
Detective Sergeant Shane McCarthy of Blanchardstown Garda station told prosecution counsel Dominic McGinn SC today that Noel Whelan had been stabbed numerous times. He had sustained 18 wounds, "eight of these are stab wounds and seven incised wounds to the head and neck and three wounds to the upper trunk".
The defendant has one previous conviction for larceny from 1995.
Whelan's defence counsel Michael Lynn SC told the judge that his client had asked him to apologise unreservedly to Noel Whelan's family and friends, his own family and in particular his daughter Sharon. "He is profoundly sorry for his actions," said Mr Lynn.
The evidence from the accused's treatment team in the Central Mental Hospital (CMH), Mr Lynn said, is that they regarded his remorse as "appropriate and genuine". "I'd like to recall that it was undisputed in the expert evidence that Mr Whelan was having a psychotic episode at the time and that is also the evidence of his treatment team in the CMH. There is also unanimous evidence that he was suffering from a psychotic episode at the time and compelling evidence he was having an episode of delirium," said counsel. He went on to say that his primary statement to the court is "one of apology".
Replying to Mr Lynn, Ms Justice Burns said the expert evidence was also in agreement that Whelan’s psychotic state was induced by drug intoxication and “neither expert had said otherwise”.
The judge then said she would sentence Whelan “without hesitation” to the mandatory term of life imprisonment for murder. The sentence was backdated to March 2019, when he went into custody.
Ms Justice Burns described the case as “shocking and horrifying” and said the level of violence used against Noel Whelan was “immense”. She said Noel Whelan senior had correctly described the attack as “barbaric” and “almost non-human” in his “heartbreaking” victim impact statement. There was absolutely no reason for the attack, there was no ill-feeling on the accused’s part towards the deceased and Noel had been subjected to a “sudden and ferocious onslaught”, she said.
Danger of drugs
Addressing the accused in the dock, Ms Justice Burns said he had acted under the influence of a drug induced psychosis and the only person to blame for that was himself. “Because of drugs you lost your wife and a happy home. Because of your continued use of drugs you deprived your daughter of a partner and your granddaughter of a father,” she said.
She added: “Apparently you are a nice man, witnesses have described you as a gentle giant. If that is so this case establishes beyond a shadow of a doubt the danger of drugs where a gentle giant can turn into a demonic murdering hulk.”
The judge said that it was obvious to her that Noel Whelan was clearly a special person, who touched everyone’s heart. It was very clear that the Whelan family are beyond heartbroken, she said, adding that she was particularly touched by their statements.
“All I can do is offer my sympathies to you. Clearly the family is suffering terribly and I hope as time goes by that the pain will ease for you,” she concluded.
Shannon Whelan did not attend court last month but wrote in her victim impact statement that her life has been “ruined forever”. She said she suffers from panic attacks, has post traumatic stress disorder and no longer feels safe, “because someone I trusted with my life has taken my whole life away.” Her life will never be the same, she said, adding: “I feel like I died that day but I’m trying to stay alive for my daughter.”
The deceased's sister Nicola Whelan read out a statement on behalf of the rest of the family. She said her brother, known to them as "Noelie" was an educated, loving and loved young man who made his family proud. He was thrilled about the upcoming birth of his daughter and full of ambition for his life, working two jobs to provide everything his family needed. He was, she said, "savagely" murdered by Mark Whelan, who showed no remorse and put the family through a harrowing trial where they heard graphic details of how he died. She said her brother's murderer had blamed "everything and everyone to avoid being accountable." She said he targeted Noel because he was younger, softer and lighter. She added: "He armed himself with his weapon of choice and left Noel with no chance of escape or defence. He was defenceless."
She said her brother’s final day was typical of him: He visited his mother to wish her a happy mother’s day and helped a friend who uses a wheelchair to run some errands. He was, she said, “unaware of the savage, unprovoked attack that awaited him.”
At Whelan's trial, Dr Francis Kelly told Michael Lynn SC, defending, that due to intoxication Whelan did not know the nature and quality of his actions, did not know his actions were wrong and could not refrain from his actions. However, the jury of nine men and three women rejected Mark Whelan's defence that he was psychotic through intoxication, was unable to form an intention to kill, and should therefore be found guilty of manslaughter rather than murder.
The State called Professor Harry Kennedy, consultant forensic psychiatrist at the Central Mental Hospital, as a rebuttal witness who found no mental disorder present in Whelan.
Prof Kennedy said that Whelan’s symptoms were better explained by his poly-substance abuse, referring to “recurrent episodes of an intoxicated state with delirium”.
“In my view, intoxication is a sufficient explanation,” he said. “This remains the explanation whether or not Mr Whelan has any mental disorder. I cannot find any mental disorder,” he said.
Chief State pathologist Dr Linda Mulligan told Dominic McGinn SC for the prosecution that one stab wound to the neck of Noel Whelan severed the carotid artery while another that entered through the front armpit penetrated his right lung. Both wounds were potentially fatal while the pathologist noted a further nine stab wounds and seven incised wounds, which caused a loss of blood and contributed to death. The cause of death, Dr Mulligan said, was multiple stab wounds with no other contributory factors.
Garda Dwayne O'Brien told Mr McGinn that he was on duty on March 30, 2019, when a call went out to gardaí at 6.10pm about a male discovered at Castlecurragh Heath with cuts to his throat and who was not breathing. At 6.57pm, the witness was working in Finglas Garda station's public office, when he saw a male in the public area with his hood up, acting in a "strange" manner and trying to open the internal station door, which requires the use of a key fob.
Gda O'Brien said that he approached the male and asked him if he was ok. The witness saw that the man had blood on his clothing, hands and blood spatter on his face. Gda O'Brien said that he asked the man, who was carrying a Lidl bag of clothing, for his name and was told "Mark Whelan". However, the witness said the man did not respond to other questions.
While in custody, Whelan asked for a cup of tea and had a cigarette outside. When Gda O’Brien took the tea out to Whelan, the accused said: “Sorry to Noel. I shouldn’t have done that; cutting the throat. It’s me that you want. I’m the bastard. I did that. Come out to me. I will give you a hug.”
Gda O’Brien said that the defendant continued: “You can stick the biggest blade in me. I love you and always loved you. I’m so sorry, Noel. Sorry for doing that and standing on your head. I’m such a f***ing thick c**t. Sorry for stabbing you.”
Sergeant Selina Proudfoot told Mr McGinn that as member-in-charge at the station, Whelan was in her care and that she regularly checked in on him with food and water during his detention. The witness said that Whelan's clothes were taken for testing and he was given a white boiler suit to wear. Gda Sgt Proudfoot said that on one occasion when she checked on him, Whelan had the boiler suit open and had his erect penis out before she asked him to close the suit.
The court also heard from the accused man’s brother-in-law, who said the defendant entered his flat soon after the murder, topless and bloodied, and kept repeating the phrase: “I have killed the last of the seven saints.”