Farmer jailed for life for murder of student

Wednesday 03 July 2013 12.29
1 of 2
Joe Heffernan had pleaded not guilty
Joe Heffernan had pleaded not guilty
Eoin Ryan's beaten body was found in a barrel on a farm in Co Clare
Eoin Ryan's beaten body was found in a barrel on a farm in Co Clare

A 33-year-old Co Clare man has been jailed for life for the murder of a 21-year-old student in 2011.

A jury at the Central Criminal Court found Joe Heffernan of Cappagh Beg, Barefield, Ennis guilty of murder by majority verdict after more than six hours of deliberation.

Eoin Ryan's body was found in a barrel on Heffernan's farm at Cappagh Beg on 7 June 2011.

He was beaten to death in what was described as an extraordinary case of overkill and an assault of astonishing and unusual severity.

Prosecutors said the victim was gay and Heffernan killed him because of his abhorrence at the possibility he too might be gay or have engaged in a homosexual act.

In a 999 call, Heffernan had said: "He made a pass at me. I'm no queer. He is the devil. I'm not going to prison."

His defence team asked the jury for a manslaughter verdict.

Senior Counsel Patrick Gageby said either a mental disorder or intoxication had caused him to see the devil.

After six hours of deliberation, the jury found him guilty of murder by an 11 to one majority.

In a victim impact statement, Mr Ryan’s brother Daniel said Eoin was the baby of the family and was cherished.

His thirst for knowledge had filled their home with hundreds of books.

He had just finished his exams, had completed an internship at the EU parliament and was planning to do a Masters.

He said: "No human being deserves to die in the lonely, terrifying and violent fashion, least of all someone as peaceful and gentle as our Eoin.

"It is every family's nightmare to lose someone they love in such horrendous circumstances; we now live that nightmare every day.

"Our world ended on June 7th 2011. Each morning is begun with a jolt of pain as the memory of what happened to Eoin returns to us.

"Days are to be endured and not enjoyed. We battle every day with questions that will never be answered and torment that will not cease.

"Our hopes for Eoin were destroyed in minutes by the barbaric actions of another, just kilometres from our home.

"The savagery of what happened to Eoin that night is something we can never, ever come to terms with. Eoin's life was brutally ended that night and so many more were destroyed forever.

"We cannot articulate how much Eoin is missed. We are a family of four now and share a pain that few could understand.

"We would give anything to have Eoin back for mere minutes to hug him and tell him we love him just once more.

"Eoin deserved a long, full and happy life and there is simply no punishment sufficient enough to lessen any of the hurt inflicted on us."