Father died trying to protect son

 

Oliver Lacey from Leixlip, Co Kildare, died early on Saturday morning some seven hours after he had been viciously punched and kicked in an unprovoked attack by a gang of up to 10 young men.

Mr Lacey had been attempting to protect his son and two young men who had been fleeing the gang when he was dragged to the ground in the garden of his home and beaten and kicked, before being left for dead.

Although a large group was present at the scene, many of whom had just left local pubs, neighbours living in the bungalows opposite Mr Lacey's house said they heard no disturbance. "I had no idea what was going on when the guards called. We were just back up from Cork and myself and my husband were still sitting up. We're just across the road but we heard nothing," one woman said.

She said the Celbridge Road was quite busy and the houses were very close to the village but the area was generally quiet. "There would always be people passing, especially at that hour, but usually if there was any racket the dog would go wild, but there was nothing; something as shocking as this happens and we just didn't know."

Mr Lacey, a widower with two sons in their 20s, had been working as a handyman, but was in poor health in recent years, neighbours said. He spent most of his time working in his garden.

Neighbours and friends described him as small in stature and quite frail for his years. However, he was still quite active and occasionally did odd jobs in the village.

"He was such a delicate little man, very quiet, but lovely and friendly. You'd see him most days, pottering in his garden or when it was colder going down to get his briquettes," a neighbour said.

The 51-year-old had lost his wife, Susan, more than 10 years ago when she was killed in a car crash. He had since raised his two sons, Mark and Oliver jnr, then in their early teens, on his own.

Mr Lacey's small frame and quiet manner made the vicious attack even more shocking, a friend said.

"I knew him from school and he was always a quiet enough fella, a bit timid . . . he'd been not too well . . . well that made him all the more harmless. I suppose he was defending his son and those other boys. It's terrible for the sons, after their mother dying when they were so young."

Neighbours said they did not know who Mr Lacey's attackers could be as he was well liked and respected and there was rarely trouble from gangs in the area.

"Around the pubs, it can be rowdy sometimes when it's late, with the crowds coming out, but it's all mouthing and shouting, nothing more than that really," one local resident told The Irish Times.

Gardaí have cordoned off the Laceys' house and garden and forensic examinations were continuing at the scene yesterday.