A man who was found guilty by a jury last month of withholding information during a Garda investigation into the killing of popular Oughterard publican and teacher John Kenny has been sentenced to five years in jail.
The sentencing hearing in relation to 38-year-old Romanian man Florin Fitzpatrick took place at Galway Circuit Criminal Court yesterday. Following a three week trial a jury unanimously found Fitzpatrick to be guilty of the charge of withholding information between the dates of September 25 and 28, 2011, by failing to disclose to gardai information which he knew or believed might be of assistance in securing the apprehension, prosecution, or conviction of any other person, in relation to the unlawful death of John Kenny (56 ) at his pub on Main Street, Oughterard, contrary to Section 9 of the Offences Against the Person Act, 1998.
Recounting some of the evidence given in the trial Remy Farrell SC, for the prosecution, said that following the discovery of Mr Kenny’s body which was found in “suspicious circumstances”, with his hands bound and something covering his head, a post mortem was carried out on September 26 and a murder investigation launched. It was discovered that a robbery had taken place at the premises during which Mr Kenny had sustained a large number of injuries, subsequently dying from a combination of factors including “suppression of the respiratory system” and a “severe beating”.
Superintendent Noel Kelly told the court that on September 25, the day that John Kenny’s body had been found, Fitzpatrick had come to Galway Garda Station saying that he had information, that he “was the last person to see him alive”. Fitzpatrick then gave a statement “which sought to implicate an innocent person”.
“In any murder investigation it is critical to get a sense of direction in relation to suspects, given the direction he put on us, that did affect the investigation,” said Supt Kelly. Referring to Fitzpatrick’s repeated claims that he was the “best friend” of the late Mr Kenny, Supt Kelly said: “That is not the phrase the family would use. He [Mr Kenny] was being intimidated and manipulated by Fitzpatrick.” Supt Kenny further explained that in the subsequent two days Fitzpatrick continued “being untruthful”, that he was “drip feeding information”.
“It is my belief that his actions resulted in two people of interest being allowed to leave the jurisdiction. These two people started to feature more and more and the story started to come together that these two were on the premises,” said Supt Kelly who added that if the vital information had been given earlier “the investigation would have taken a different course,” and those people might not have left the jurisdiction. Supt Kelly further informed Judge Griffin that these two people left the jurisdiction on September 27, 2011, and that it was a possibility that they may never be brought to justice.
Referring to evidence given during the course of the trial that Fitzpatrick had been in a city centre hotel at 2am on September 25 where he had seemed very upset, Supt Kelly said that “he was aware” that something had happened or was in the course of happening.
Defence barrister, Blaise O’Carroll SC, explained that Fitzpatrick, a Romanian native, had been abandoned by his parents at the age of two and had spent the next 16 years in an orphanage. Fitzpatrick was able to attend college and work in the orphanage where he met his Irish wife, a charity worker. He then changed his name to Fitzpatrick by deed poll and came to Ireland with his wife. The court heard that the father of two children has no previous convictions and that he had been working regularly since coming to this country. Mr O’Carroll then said that Fitzpatrick had been subject to intimidation and threats, that he is a “deeply religious man” who is extremely “remorseful for what happened to John Kenny”.
After taking time to consider the sentence, Judge Griffin said: “There was a grave breach of trust. He knew it was going to take place. At 2am [at the city centre hotel] he knew something happened or was about to happen... He sent the gardai on a trail of lies and deception in an attempt to implicate an innocent person. He professed to be the best friend of John Kenny, he was not his friend as he brought the two men into the life of John Kenny and then helped them to escape justice.”
The five year sentence was backdated to September 28, 2011. Judge Griffin refused leave to appeal but granted legal aid.