Ireland: Court hears farmer killed gay student for being the ‘devil’

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Ireland’s Central Criminal Court was told on Friday that a farmer who killed a student two years ago was motivated by “abhorrence” towards his victim’s homosexuality.

The Irish Independent reports that Eoin Ryan, 21, was beaten to death on 7 June 2011, in Cappagh Beg, County Clare.

His body was found in a barrel on a farm after Joe Heffernan, 33, called police to confess. Recordings of his calls were played at the trial.

In his first call he told Garda Niall Cosgrave: “I’m after killing a man. He came on to me and I killed him. I’m not gay or nothing, you know.”

“He thought I was. He stripped down,” he continued. “I’m not going to prison.”

He later said: “I killed the devil. The devil came for me but I took him.”

In a closing speech at the trial on Friday, prosecutor Bernard Condon noted that it was not necessary to establish a motive in the case.

“However, I suggest there is a motive,” he said, “a very glaring issue which stands out: the issue of homosexuality and his reaction to that.”

Earlier in the trial, Mr Condon told the court that Ryan had recently come out as gay. On the night of his death he had been in a bar with two female friends.

“In the early hours, Eoin appears to have disappeared out of the company of the two girls and appears to have gone in a taxi with the accused out to Cappagh Beg,” he said.

A barman reported overhearing the two men mention condoms, and after leaving the bar they stopped at a shop where Ryan appeared to have bought some.

Mr Condon quoted Mr Heffernan as telling a doctor in Dublin’s Central Mental Hospital after the murder: “I think he was a gay. He made a pass at me and I kind of went along with it.”

He reported that Mr Heffernan had seemed embarrassed about it, and added: “I suggest that’s what this case is about, not just embarrassment, abhorrence.”

Patrick Gageby, defending, argued for a manslaughter verdict on the grounds of intoxication or mental disorder, saying one of these factors made Mr Heffernan believe Ryan was the devil.

Mr Heffernan was interviewed by a forensic psychiatrist three times after the killing. She said he was suffering from a psychotic disorder, possibly schizophrenia, but this diagnosis was not certain.

“Eoin Ryan was assaulted with astonishing and unusual severity,” said Mr Gageby. “It is worth considering the extraordinary case of overkill.”

The jury are expected to begin deliberations on Monday.