Three admit manslaughter of Scotsman in Leitrim

 

Three new age travellers on trial for murdering a Scotsman on a mountainside in Co Leitrim have had pleas of manslaughter accepted by the DPP.

Mr Justice Diarmuid O'Donovan discharged a jury sworn in to try them. The three men will now be sentenced for the killing next October.

Andrew Gordon Roche (36), with an address in Drumlease, Dromohair, Co Leitrim, Martin Francis Barber (33) with an address at Boihy, Manorhamilton and Keith Cooper (25), with an address at Gortimar, Manorhamilton were all due to go on trial for the murder of Mr Elliott Colin Double, otherwise known as Elliott Robertson (25), at a new age traveller campsite at Boihy, Co Leitrim on October 6th 1998.

Roche, Barber and Cooper are all natives of England and Robertson was a native of Glasgow.

Earlier this week, Barber changed his plea to manslaughter and following a sudden adjournment of the trial yesterday. Today Roche and Cooper also admitted manslaughter.

Mr George Birmingham SC, prosecuting, told Mr Justice Diarmuid O'Donovan that the pleas were acceptable to the DPP.

The court has heard that the killing occurred when the three new age travellers became involved in a confrontation with the deceased on a mountain path. The confrontation came after a number of efforts to get Robertson and his friends to leave the area failed.

Tensions between the new age travellers living long-term in the area and the "casuals" grew in the weeks and days before the killing, and the long-term travellers held a series of meetings to discuss how to get them to leave or force them to leave.

The new age travellers suspected the deceased and his friends of involvement in local burglaries, of dumping syringes used for injecting heroin on the campsite and accused them of driving at high speeds up and down the country lanes.

Mr Elliott Robertson was described by prosecution counsel as "a very difficult customer" who was known to be violent. During the confrontation, with Roche, Barber and Cooper, he brandished a spade, and at one stage, he hit Roche with it. The three men attacked him and beat him to the ground. They then bound Mr Robertson with a nylon rope and continued to beat him. A pick axe and an iron bar were used in the attack.

"At an early stage he was subdued, and his hands were bound together and he was then beaten very, very severely indeed", Mr Birmingham told the jury in his opening speech for the prosecution. "Having been bound and subdued, at that stage he was no threat to anybody."

Robertson was then dragged by the rope that bound his hands along a rough mountain path to a caravan where some of his friends were gathered.

The three accused told its occupants to call an ambulance and said the injured man should consider himself lucky to be alive. He was later removed by ambulance to Sligo General Hospital where he died from cardiac arrest in the early hours of October 6th.

A post-mortem showed multiple blows to the body that caused blunt force trauma and led to the heart attack.

The new age community has existed in Boihy since around 1993, the court heard. People seeking an alternative lifestyle had set up a new age campsite or commune in "a bleak, remote and desolate spot" on the slopes of a mountain, the very remoteness of which had made it attractive to travellers. The new age community had not been bothered by the people of the local area, and they had not bothered the local community either, Mr Birmingham said.

While many of the new age travellers were not Irish, he said, they proved to be no exception to "the Brendan Behan rule" that whenever a new organisation was formed in Ireland, the first item on the agenda was the split.

Following their change of plea yesterday, Roche and Cooper were remanded on continuing bail to appear for sentencing on October 7th. Barber, whose manslaughter plea was accepted by the DPP earlier this week, has already been remanded on continuing bail to July 18th, but he is expected to be sentenced with Roche and Cooper in October.