Farmer gets life in jail for murder of brother


A CO Wicklow farmer with Parkinson’s syndrome has been sentenced to life in prison for murdering his older brother in a row over their mother’s burial wishes.

Cecil Tomkins (63), New Lodge Nursing Home, Stocking Lane, Rathfarnham, Dublin, had pleaded not guilty at the Central Criminal Court to murdering Walter Tomkins (66) at Cronlea, Shillelagh, on July 1st, 2010.

Last month he was found guilty by unanimous verdict by a jury of nine men and three women after five hours of deliberation following the seven-day trial.

He was not in court on March 16th when the jury returned its verdict and had missed the last two days of his trial due to illness, so sentencing was deferred.

Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan yesterday handed down the mandatory life sentence. He refused a defence application for bail pending an appeal, saying he did not think it was appropriate.

The application was made by John O’Kelly SC, defending, who said Tomkins, who has spent the past 18 months in a nursing home, posed no flight risk of any kind.

Mr O’Kelly said his client needed constant care and said he had difficulties over how such a man would get appropriate care.

Dominic McGinn SC, prosecuting, raised concerns over Tomkins being a flight risk and the judge’s jurisdiction in relation to bail, and said the matter was one for the prison service.

“I do not think it is appropriate to grant bail and accordingly I refuse to grant the application,” said Mr Justice Sheehan.

Tomkins, a bachelor, told gardaí he shot his brother Walter, also a bachelor, in the hallway of the house they shared because he had not followed his mother’s burial wishes.

The trial heard their mother Bella Tomkins had been buried days before the shooting, on June 28th, 2010. Her body was interred locally in Aghowle with that of her late husband, who died of a heart attack in 1999.

Bella Tomkins continued living with Walter and Cecil in the house for the next 11 years, the court heard. Her original wish was to be buried with other family members in Kilcormac, Co Wexford. She had later reserved a plot in Gorey, in 2001, and left a letter outlining her wishes, with money in an envelope to cover the burial.

Tomkins told a psychiatrist: “I got the gun and shot him. I regretted it the moment I did it.”

Deputy State Pathologist Dr Khalid Jabbar gave evidence in the trial that Walter Tomkins died from a single shotgun wound.

Consultant psychiatrist at the Central Mental Hospital Dr Paul O’Connell told the court it was his opinion Tomkins had dementia which “impaired his judgment”, and that “a defence of diminished responsibility is available”.

Tomkins told the psychiatrist he recalled his parents having rows and although they lived together, they led separate lives. He would not disclose the nature of these rows as he said he wanted to keep the matter private.

He told Dr O’Connell he had left school when he was 14, that he had never had a relationship and that he inherited 50 acres of land after the farm was split between him and his two brothers.

Dr O’Connell said Tomkins had no psychiatric history and no previous convictions, and said he had told him he would drink the odd time but had never been drunk.

When Garda Christopher Murray asked Tomkins when he arrived at the farmhouse what had happened, Tomkins told him there was a “row” over his mother’s burial place.

“There was a row. My mother wanted to be buried in Kilcormac or Gorey but she was buried in Aghowle. I shot Walter because he buried her in Aghowle,” he said.

The court heard he drove up the field in a tractor and told his nephew Alan Tomkins he had shot Walter, that he was still groaning, and to call an ambulance.

Charles Tomkins, the youngest of the three brothers, gave evidence he had not spoken to Walter for 30 years. He said when he arrived at the house after his son Alan called him, he saw his brother Walter in the hallway and said he picked up the shotgun and threw it out of the house.

Charles said he was cleaning Walter’s bedroom the following September and found a biscuit tin under the wardrobe containing an envelope with a letter in it.

The note said: “I am to be buried in Gorey – Bella,” and “The money in this envelope is to pay for the grave in Gorey,” but Charles said there was no money in the envelope.

Witnesses who did farm contract work for Walter Tomkins told the court he was easy to get on with, nearly always happy and he was always telling jokes.