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Killer wants lenient sentence for knifing man to death over €100 debt

William Gilsenan
William Gilsenan

A defence barrister asked for her client to be handed a sentence of no more than four years after he was convicted of stabbing a man to death during a row over €100 debt.

William Gilsenan (24) was found not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter in December for the killing of 29-year-old Edward Fitzgerald in a car park outside the killer's home at The Green, Larch Hill, Oscar Traynor Road, Santry, Dublin 17.

At a sentencing hearing this morning Mr Gilsenan told the court that he was ashamed of what he did. Addressing Justice Paul Butler he said he had destroyed a family and "would never live it down."

He added: "I'd like to apologise to the family but due to shame I wouldn't be able to look them in their faces."

His barrister Caroline Biggs SC said that her client was of previous good character and had no history of violence.

She said the attack was out of character and that Gilsenan was going to college and "managing his life quite well" before the stabbing.

She said there was evidence that Mr Fitzgerald provoked the attack by threatening Gilsenan and his family during a heated row before Gilsenan produced the knife.

Outlining the mitigating factors in the case she said he had offered to plead guilty to manslaughter but that plea was rejected by the State. 

She said that Gilsenan accepts that he will get a prison sentence, but asked that it be placed on the lower end of the scale at no more than four years. Justice Butler adjourned sentencing until next Thursday, January 19.

Mr Fitzgerald's sister Nicola O'Dea read a statement prepared by the family. She said she and her sister Lisa have to go on with their lives, for the sake of the younger members of the family, but their parents have struggled every day.

"They have yet to sleep a night without medication since this happened," she said. "My mam has since been prescribed anti-depressants, something she will take to get through each day for the rest of her life."

Edward had a big heart, she said, and was a "big softy".

"He thought he knew it all and wouldn't admit otherwise. He was a lovable character who liked to act the clown, had time for everyone, would never judge you and had a large circle of friends."

She added: "It's not just Edward's death that has affected us, every time we hear on the news that someone has been stabbed, we think about that poor family, what they're going through and what lies ahead of them."

Sergeant Aidan Delaney of Ballymun Garda Station told prosecuting counsel Orla Crowe SC that Mr Gilsenan has one previous conviction for possession of drugs for sale or supply.

He received a three year sentence suspended for three years at Dublin Circuit Court for that offence. Sgt Delaney agreed with Ms Biggs that Gilsenan was not a drug dealer and had been holding the drugs for someone else.

Ms Biggs also referred to a psychological report which showed that Mr Gilsenan had used cannabis to self-medicate for depression.

The psychologist also concluded that he was an "affable" person but lacks self-confidence and suffers from depression.

The psychologist said the knife attack was "reactionary and opportunistic" rather than premeditated.

She said his parents had separated when he was 12 years old and that he had led a "transient" and "chaotic" life after that, moving from Mayo to Meath Street in the south inner city and then to Finglas.

Outlining the evidence in the case Sgt Delaney told Ms Crowe that the killing took place on the afternoon of October 17, 2014 when Mr Fitzgerald drove up to Mr Gilsenan's home looking for him to repay €100 debt.

The two men argued and witnesses said Mr Fitzgerald threatened to smash up Gilsenan's home and his mother's home.

Following the row Mr Gilsenan went into his apartment and emerged some minutes later armed with a knife.

He told gardai during interviews that he brought the knife to scare Mr Fitzgerald away, but had no intention of using it.

Back in the car park Mr Fitzgerald called him again from the driver's seat of his car and the row reignited. One witness, Dillon Mahady, said Mr Fitzgerald threw a punch at Gilsenan through the open passenger side window.

At that point Gilsenan walked around the car and a fight broke out with Mr Fitzgerald kicking out from the driver's seat and Gilsenan trying to hold his legs.

During the row Gilsenan produced the knife and stabbed him twice. One wound went through his leg but did not cause any life-threatening injuries.

The other pierced his heart and caused his death.

Justice Butler remanded Gilsenan in custody until next Thursday.