Man who killed friend with 'Bruce Lee' punches loses conviction appeal

Appeal judge said the trial judge was entitled to rule as he did
Appeal judge said the trial judge was entitled to rule as he did

A father-of-two jailed for life for murdering his friend with what he described as ‘Bruce Lee’ punches because the victim ‘wouldn’t shut up’, has lost a conviction appeal.

John Hannigan (48) of River House, New Quay, Clonmel, Co Tipperary, had pleaded not guilty to murdering father-of-two Anthony Fallon in Clonmel on January 18, 2012.

He had also pleaded not guilty to assault causing harm to the 46 year-old on the same date at Mr Fallon's flat on Abbey Street in the town.

A Central Criminal Court jury found Hannigan guilty on both counts and he was given the mandatory life sentence by Mr Justice Paul Carney on February 28, 2014.

The eight-day trial heard that Hannigan had called an ambulance to River House shortly before 7 o’clock that morning, telling the emergency services that Mr Fallon had rung his doorbell and then collapsed.

A post-mortem exam found 31 separate fractures to Mr Fallon's ribs, along with fractures to his collar and breast bones. The cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head and trunk, with the trunk injuries the major cause.

Hannigan later told gardai that his friend’s death was on his hands. He said he had lost his temper when Mr Fallon ‘would not shut up’ and had punched him ‘hard and fast’ like Bruce Lee. He said the deceased had never lifted his hands to defend himself.

However, in the witness box Hannigan said he was ‘just panicking’ when he told gardaí that he had attacked the deceased.

The prosecution asked the jury why the accused would tell lies implicating himself in a crime he didn’t commit.

However, the defence argued that his accounts of beating his friend were unreliable, noting that he had told gardai that he had a black belt in karate, before admitting that he had no belt.

Counsel for Hannigan, Damien Colgan SC, submitted that the trial judge erred in refusing to permit expert psychological evidence relating to Hannigan.

Mr Colgan further submitted that the trial judge erred in permitting memos of interview of Hannigan, given the nature of the psychological evidence available to the court during the trial.

Dismissing his appeal today Mr Justice Alan Mahon said the trial judge did not disallow psychological evidence to be given or to be called. He permitted the issue to be canvassed but no expert evidence was called on Hannigan's behalf.

The decision to call or not to call witnesses was a decision for an accused's legal team and is usually taken for “tactical reasons”.

Furthermore, Mr Justice Mahon said the trial judge had heard expert evidence on Hannigan's capacity to make reliable statements.

He said the trial judge was entitled to rule as he did.

Mr Justice Mahon, who sat with Mr Justice George Birmingham and Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan, rejected both grounds and the appeal was therefore dismissed.