Limerick man sentenced to life in prison for Southill murder

A LIMERICK city man is beginning a life sentence after he was convicted of murdering Noel Crawford in Southill more than four years ago.

A LIMERICK city man is beginning a life sentence after he was convicted of murdering Noel Crawford in Southill more than four years ago.

Mr Crawford, 40, died after he was shot as he celebrated his birthday at his parent's home in O'Malley Park in the early hours of December 18, 2006.

He sustained gunshot wounds to his stomach and he died from his injuries a number of hours later.

Jonathan Fitzgerald, 21, of South Claughaun Road denied murdering the father-of-six throughout his trial which began last month at the Central Criminal Court in Dublin.

The jury in the case was told that Noel Crawford was shot in what was a case of mistaken identity and that it was his brother, Paul Crawford, who was the intended target.

Throughout the trial, lawyers representing Jonathan Fitzgerald, who was extradited to Limerick from the UK last year, argued that someone else had shot Noel Crawford.

Ater more than six hours of deliberations over two days the jury of seven men and five women found Mr Fitzgerald guilty of murdering Noel Crawford by a majority of 11 to 1

Imposing sentence, Mr Justice Barry White said there is a need for deterrent sentences to be handed down if there is to be a reduction in the level of gangland killings.

He imposed the mandatory life sentence on Jonathan Fiitzgerald and he sentenced Michael O' Callaghan, 18, of Pineview Gardens, Moyross to seven years in prison for the manslaughter of Mr Crawford.

The teenager pleaded guilty to the charge last November but the jury was not informed of this until after they had returned a verdict.

Speaking outside the Courts of Criminal Justice following the sentencing hearing Noel Crawford's mother, Mary Crawford, said she feels justice has been done.

"I feel so happy, it has been a long four years for us, the whole family is devastated because my son, Noel, was a hard working man and he hadn't a bad bone in his body," she said.