Convicted killer jailed for beating dissident republican to death
A convicted killer has been jailed for life for beating dissident republican Larry "Bomber" Keane to death in a lane-way after what was his second murder trial.
Seamus Morgan (49) with an address at The Hollands, Athy, Co Kildare was charged with murdering Laurence Keane (56) in the town on July 19 2013.
Last week at the Central Criminal Court Mr Morgan pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr Keane.
Today a jury of three men and nine women found Morgan guilty by unanimous verdict of murdering Mr Keane in Athy over two years ago. They had deliberated for a period of three hours and six minutes.
Morgan was sentenced to eight years in July 2005 after a jury found him not guilty of murder but guilty of the manslaughter of 29-year-old James Hand, who was stabbed to death outside a Dublin pub.
He had pleaded not guilty to the murder of Mr Hand, of Mountjoy Square, Dublin 7, on or between August 22 and September 5, 2002, at The Meeting Point pub on Dorset Street Upper.
In 1998 Keane himself pleaded guilty to having 980lb of an explosive mixture and devices, with the intent to endanger life or enable another to do so, at Dun Laoghaire port on April 2 of the same year. He was sentenced to 15 years in jail but the term was reduced to 10 on appeal.
The court heard that the explosives were twice the size of the bomb used by the Real IRA in Omagh in 1998. Gardai believed that the likely target of the Real IRA was the Aintree Grand National.
Mr Justice Robert Eagar thanked the jury for "the clarity of their concentration in the case" and the amount of "thought" they had given to it.
Mr Justice Eagar then exempted them from jury service for a period of four years.
Counsel for the State Mr Tom O'Connell SC then called Detective Sergeant Sean Boland from Newbridge Garda Station to take the stand and asked him to tell the court about Morgan's age, background and previous employment.
“He is 49 years of age, a single man who is originally from the Athy area of Co Kildare and lived for a period of time in Dublin,” said Det Sgt Boland.
The court heard Morgan has two daughters from a previous relationship.
“He is unemployed and did at some stage in the past work as a chef. Around the time of this incident he was unemployed and living on his own,” said Det Sgt Boland.
The court heard Morgan has been in custody since April 23 2014 and has eight previous convictions ranging in date from May 1991 up to and including July 2005.
“Most of them are related to public order issues but the most relevant one from July 04 2005 was when he was tried for murder at the Central Criminal Court but convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to eight years in prison in Mountjoy,” said Det Sgt Boland.
Mr Justice Eagar then sentenced Morgan to life imprisonment and backdated it to April 23 2014.
Prosecution counsel Mr Tom O’Connell SC read a Victim Impact Statement to the court on behalf of the Keane family.
“Little did we know on the morning of July 18 2013 as day turned into night how our lives would change forever. This is a day in our lives we will never forget,” read counsel.
The court heard “Larry” Keane was "a father, a grandfather, a brother, an uncle and a friend to many people.”
Counsel read that Mr Keane was “always in good humour, talkative and an outgoing man” but he was also a “vulnerable, frail and disabled man” who was “helpless without the aid of his walking stick.”
“Larry lost his life in the most traumatic way, not far from the home he shared with his son Laurence, we will never know what his last words or thoughts were,” read counsel.
The court heard there was now “a void” in the family’s lives “that can never be filled.”
“It is a nightmare what we will never be able to wake up from. Our life sentence began on that 18th day of July 2013,” read Mr O’Connell.
The court heard the family expect “to see Larry sitting at the foot of the Barrow bridge in his native town of Athy” as they pass “day by day”.
Mr O’Connell then read that the family would like to thank the “person who had the presence of mind to call 999” on the night.
In the opening of the trial prosecution counsel Mr Tom O'Connell SC told the jury it was the prosecution's case that the attack on Mr Keane which led to his death took place "shortly before midnight on July 18 2013" but the deceased did not die until the following day.
“Laurence Keane was in his mid to late fifties at the time of his death and was not in good shape as he had been in a traffic accident so he walked with a stick," said Mr O'Connell.
Counsel for the State said the court would hear Mr Keane was "attacked" in a lane way between St John's Lane and the Greenhills estate in Athy between 11.30pm and 11.45pm on July 18 2013.
The court heard Laurence Keane was "very badly battered about the head with an object which caused him severe fracturing of his skull in at least four places."
"He died in Naas General Hospital as a result of his injuries. Various eye witnesses said they saw them around the town together in the night and right up to the time of the murder. So there is evidence of association right up to the murder," said the barrister.
The court heard they would also hear "evidence of a motive" as there was "long standing ill will" between the two men.
"He admitted to gardai he had been in the lane-way with Mr Keane and there was long standing animosity between the two men. He was subsequently rearrested on April 17 2014 as some new evidence had come to light," said Mr O'Connell.
Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis gave evidence in the trial and he told the court that he carried out a post mortem examination on the deceased in the mortuary of Nass General Hospital on July 19 2013.
Dr Curtis said Mr Keane's cause of death was as a result of "severe blunt force trauma to the head."
"The deceased had been struck ten significant blows to his head on both sides and there were some lacerations of full and partial thickness. An examination of the brain showed there had been severe bruising to the tissue of the brain," he said.
The court also heard there was evidence that Mr Keane had suffered severe injuries in the past which were consistent with a road accident "which had rendered him disabled."
Mr Jamie Flynn Quinn who is from Athy in Kildare was also called to give evidence.
Mr Flynn Quinn told the court he saw Laurence Keane who was known to him as "Larry" Keane with a few other people on the night of July 18 2013 as he walked over Barrow Bridge in Athy.
The court heard how later in the night when he was walking with his girlfriend through a lane-way between St John's Lane and the Greenhills estate in Athy he "spotted somebody on the ground."
"There was blood everywhere so I rang 999. I thought he had been shot in the head as there was a hole in his head. The gardai arrived 30 seconds after I rang," he said.
The court heard the ambulance service then arrived at 12.25am.
Another witness, Mr James Lambe, told the court that he met Jimmy Morgan and Larrry Keane down the lane at 11.20pm on the night.
When asked by counsel "what kind of humour did the men appear to be in", Mr Lambe replied saying "just normal, everything was quiet."
"I had seen them together hundreds of time," he said.
Mr Nathan Robinson from Athy was also called to give evidence and he told the court that on July 18 2013, he was cycling with his two friends in Athy around 10pm when he saw "a bit of a scuffle at the top of the hill at St John's Lane."
"Jimmy Morgan (the accused) and Larry Keane were scuffling. I saw Jimmy swinging three times going 'you bastard you bastard,'" said Nathan Robinson.
When asked by prosecution counsel Mr Tom O'Connell what was Mr Morgan swinging, Nathan Robinson replied: "I don’t know, it was about 12 inches long (the object).”
Mr Ricky Moriarty who was also on his bike that night along with Nathan Robinson was called to give evidence and he told the court he "heard these noises" when he got up the hill and he "saw Larry Keane being beaten in the head by Jimmy Morgan" with "a bar."
The trial jury also heard garda evidence that CCTV footage showed the accused and deceased walking together in the centre of Athy.
Detective Sergeant Sean Boland, of Newbridge Garda Station, told the court that on July 19 2013 he went to Seamus Morgan's house to carry out a search where a pair of runners were seized.
Forensic scientist Dr Hilary Clarke, of the Forensic Science Lab, told prosecution counsel that she received a number of physical exhibits relating to the investigation, including a pair of runners belonging to the accused.
"There were small blood stains on both the left and right runner, the toe area of both runners and on the inner side of the tongue area of the left runner," she said.
The court heard she developed a DNA profile from the sample of the blood stain from the toes of both runners and the tongue of the left runner which "matched the profile of Larry Keane."
"The estimated chance of finding this profile if the DNA had come from somebody other than Larry Keane is considerably less than one in a thousand million," said Dr Clarke.
By Alison O'Riordan