Limerick drug dealer sentenced to life imprisonment for pub murder

Eoin Reynolds

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Eoin Reynolds

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The scene of the murder at Fitzgerald's Bar on Sexton Street North in Thomondgate

The scene of the murder at Fitzgerald's Bar on Sexton Street North in Thomondgate

PEOPLE carrying knives while drinking and taking drugs are an "affliction in Irish society" that results in far too many deaths, a Central Criminal Court judge has said.

Ms Justice Tara Burns made her comments as she sentenced a Limerick man who was convicted, last month, of murdering another man during a cocaine-fuelled row in a quiet Limerick pub.

Sentencing Mark Crawford the murder of Patrick ‘Pa’ O’Connor she said she had “no hesitation” in passing the mandatory life sentence for what she described as an act of “madness fuelled by drink and drugs.”

She said that something has to be done about people carrying knives, adding: "A mixture of alcohol, cocaine and knives results in far too many deaths in this country."

Crawford, 43, who has an address at Quarry Road, Thomondgate was convicted last month by a unanimous jury verdict of the murder of Mr O’Connor at Fitzgerald’s Bar at Sexton Street North on July 7 or 8, 2018.

Crawford stabbed Mr O’Connor six times with two wounds to the heart and neck causing his death. It emerged during the trial that the men had met for the first time the previous day and had been taking cocaine together on July 7.

Tensions rose between the two men out of an argument over the drugs and Crawford claimed he was acting in self-defence, a claim that was rejected by the jury.

CCTV from minutes before the fatal stabbing showed the deceased dancing and laughing and joking with others in the bar where he was a popular regular.

Ms Justice Burns said the footage, showing Mr O'Connor "acting as always, full of banter and chat," must have been the most difficult thing for the O’Connor family to watch.

She described Fitzgerald’s as a quiet local pub where everybody seemed to know everybody and said the stabbing was a shocking thing for the regulars to have witnessed.

In a victim impact statement, Mr O’Connor’s sister Deborah O’Connor told the court that it is 818 days since her family last saw Patrick’s face, “the last time we spoke, the last time we laughed together.”

She described her brother as the kind of person everyone wanted to be friends with. “He knew everyone and everyone who knew him loved him,” she said.

He got his jokes, kindness and love of banter from his mum and dad, she said, who are heartbroken at having buried their only son.

She added: “It was his welcoming, trusting and kindhearted nature that led to his murder, by a man he met less than 48 hours earlier. They were not friends.”

Speaking outside the court Deborah told reporters the last two years have been very difficult for her family. "Little did we know on the morning of Saturday, 7 July 2018 it would be the last time we saw Patrick alive, the last time he would walk out the front door to never return. During the trial to learn of the horrific way Patrick died has been an incredibly distressing and difficult time for the family. To watch him on CCTV footage in the moments before he was murdered, acting his usual fun-loving self, has left us heartbroken," she said.

Ms O'Connor added that while they will not get Patrick back the sentence gives some comfort. She described her brother as a really good person who loved life and was full of banter. Every day he came home from work he had a story to tell and was "always up for the craic".

She said her brother met Crawford less than 48 hours earlier and they weren't friends. Her brother, she said, would talk to anyone who came to have a chat with him.

Crawford’s barrister Patrick McGrath SC read a letter to the court in which his client said he is sorry for what he has put the O’Connor family through and that he "never meant to kill him".

He added: “I regret it every single day. I know they wake up every day knowing Patrick is not here and I am so sorry for what I have done.”

Garda Declan O'Donovan told the court that Crawford has a number of previous convictions mostly in the District Court.

However, he has one conviction for assault causing harm and is awaiting sentence at the Circuit Criminal Court in relation to a Section 15A drugs offence.

That relates to the seizure of heroin worth €24,500.