Five men accused of the murder and robbery of Lahardane musician Thomas Kennedy in Georgia last week have been remanded in custody and face up to 17 years in jail if found guilty of the crime, a Georgian court has been told.
Mr Kennedy (28 ) who was a talented singer/songwriter, 28, was on holiday in Georgia when he was invited to have a drink with the group of men.
However three days later his body was found washed up in the Mtkvari river near Gori.
On Wednesday all five men who were arrested on suspicion of his murder denied in court that they had killed him. Four of the accused did admit that they had robbed the Irishman.
The court heard that his phone was later found in a local pawn shop, and this prompted a police investigation. Police said that their investigation suggested that Mr Kennedy was alive but unconscious when he was thrown into the river.
The court was told that the men had panicked after the robbery, thinking that they had killed him. Giorgi Balashvili, 28, Zura Palavandishvili, 19, Giorgi Okhanashvili, 17, and Giorgi Kareli, 20, deny murder but admit robbery.
They claim that Mr Kennedy was running away from the fight when he fell into the river. Okropiridze has denied involvement in the robbery and Mr Kennedy’s death.
Mikheil Beriashvili, a prosecutor, told the court that the prosecution is not satisfied with the defence’s argument that the victim himself jumped or fell into the river.
“We believe we are dealing with a premeditated murder in order to destroy the incriminating evidence of another crime — robbing. This was also carried out against a person who was helpless.”
All five accused have been detained by a court for two months - and face from 13 to 17 years in prison if found guilty.
Mr Kennedy, who was often seen performing on the streets in Castlebar and Galway, was born in Manchester but lived in Ireland all his life with his Irish grandparents.
His cousin Olivia Barrett, who has set up a GoFundMe page for the repatriation of his body, said that he was a 'beautiful person.'
"Our family would love people to know how talented beautiful Tom was. He was a self taught musician with so much talent. Singer/songwriter, guitarist, fiddle player and many more.
"He was a proud Mayo man, he loved his beloved home of Lahardane. He was so gentle and kind, the funniest person you could meet he wouldn’t harm a fly."
He is survived by his parents Eddie and Cathy Kennedy, his six brothers and extended family.
"Tom was my beautiful cousin, we are so hurt by his death but we are a strong family and we're going to get through it.
"He will be dancing and singing in heaven and he will be so, so proud that his music is still being listened to."
Olivia said that his family are still waiting for the police report to hear what exactly happened.
"Hopefully justice is served over there and we will be able to go for the trial to be able to see these men put away for a very long time.
"We were hoping he would be home for the weekend but that's looking very bleak at the minute. So hopefully by early next week he will be home and we can give him the funeral he deserves and sing and have a song for him in memory of Tom."
Prosecutors told the court how Thomas had struck up a conversation with fellow street busker Vasil Okropiridze, 24, who invited him to join his friends for a drink.
But it is alleged that the meeting later turned violent and Mr Kennedy was beaten and then thrown into the river.
Thomas's former club Lahardane MacHales GAA club said "Farewell to a former North Mayo winning captain of ours; Thomas (Tom ) Kennedy cruelly taken in the prime of his life, he was one of the most chirpy lads around…ever smiling as he’d say “Nice one bud” and “cheers bud”.
The Go Fund Me Page has already raised over €35,000 with tributes being paid to Tom and his family.
Olivia said: "Any funds raised over what is required will be donated to the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust, which is providing invaluable support to the Kennedy and Barrett family at this extremely difficult time."
The GoFundMe page is at https://www.gofundme.com/f/tom-kennedy-repatriation-fund