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Mayo man admits beating two elderly brothers to death in their home

Alan Cawley
Alan Cawley

A 30-year-old Mayo man has admitted killing two elderly brothers, who were beaten to death in their Castlebar home four years ago.

Alan Cawley of Four Winds, Corrinbla, Ballina has gone on trial at the Central Criminal Court, charged with murdering the men, one of whom was disabled and was scalded during the assault.

He has pleaded not guilty to murdering both Thomas Blaine and John (Jack) Blaine on 10th July 2013 at New Antrim Street, Castlebar.

Denis Vaughan Buckley SC opened the case for the State yesterday (Friday) afternoon. He said that there would be no issue but that the accused had caused the death of both men.

“The main issue you’ll have to decide is whether he’s guilty of murder, or not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter,” he explained, describing the assault on them as ‘pretty vicious’.

He said their home help had found the brothers dead around 7.30 that morning. Gardaí arrived and found Thomas Blaine lying in a pool of blood on the floor of his downstairs bedroom. There was extensive blood staining in the room and his clothing was saturated with blood.

His brother was found lying in a small courtyard to the rear of the house. Both appeared to have died as a result of a violent struggle.

The barrister said that Jack Blaine, who was in his late 70s, had a speech impediment and hearing impairment, and had developed dementia in his final months. He said the State Pathologist had said that both he and his brother had been the victims of a violent assault.

She had given Thomas Blaine’s cause of death as blood loss, brain trauma, chest trauma and inhalation of blood due to blunt injuries to his head, face and chest. Contributory factors were blunt trauma to a limb, larynx, right wrist and hand bones.

Professor Marie Cassidy had found severe and extensive injuries to his head, neck, chest and limbs, fractures to his skull, breastbone, multiple ribs and a bone in each hand.

She said in her report that some of the bruises were in a pattern that suggested he had been struck with something with a narrow edge. It would have also been fairly heavy, she added.

She said he could have been struck up to 12 times to the head, five times to the chest and six or more times to the hands and arms. Considerable force would have been used.

She said that, despite the violence of the assault, his death was not immediate: there was clear evidence that he had swallowed and inhaled a significant amount of blood from his facial injuries.

She said that the pattern of trauma and blood staining at the scene suggested that the initial assault took place while he was lying on his bed and that he had attempted to defend himself. She explained that injuries to his arms were typical of defence injuries.

Despite his age, she said, he had generally good health.

The cause of his brother, Jack Blaine’s, death was blunt force trauma to the head, blood loss, brain injury and obstruction of breathing due to facial injuries. A scalding injury to the abdomen was a contributory factor.

He had also received numerous fractures to his skull, bruising of the brain and had inhaled and swallowed blood from his injuries. There was obstruction to his breathing due to the collapse of facial structures.

She said he appeared to have made fairly feeble attempts to defend himself, which was most likely due to his disability.

His death was not immediate either, but he may have been rendered unconscious fairly rapidly, she said.

She noted that there was evidence that he had been scalded, with the pattern suggesting he was sitting when hot liquid was poured or thrown onto his exposed skin. Such burns would be extremely painful, she explained.

Mr Vaughan Buckley told the jury that it would see CCTV footage of some of the accused man’s movements, and would hear that he denied any involvement, when arrested later that day.

However, when he was later charged with Thomas Blaine’s murder, he replied: ‘I’m sorry for all the torture that I’ve put everyone through’.

“The issue will be whether what he did amounted to murder or manslaughter,” concluded the barrister.

Mr Cawley’s barrister, Caroline Biggs SC, then stood and made an admission on his behalf.

“He formally accepts and admits that he caused the deaths of Mr John or Jack Blaine and Mr Thomas Blaine,” she said.

The trial will continue next Wednesday before Mr Justice Paul Coffey and a jury of four women and eight men.