Murderer of Sligo man has two appeals rejected in one afternoon

Murder victim Eugene Gillespie
Murder victim Eugene Gillespie

A burglar jailed for life for the murder of “well-respected” Sligo man Eugene Gillespie has had appeals against his conviction and sentence dismissed by the Court of Appeal.

Simon McGinley (32), of Connaughton Road Car Park, Sligo had admitted killing Eugene Gillespie (67) at his home in Old Market Street on September 19, 2012 but denied it was murder.

The Central Criminal Court heard the manslaughter plea was not accepted by the State and a jury was sworn in for the trial. He had pleaded guilty to the false imprisonment of Mr Gillespie as well as trespass to commit robbery on the same occasion.

Mr Gillespie was a retired telecoms broker who also worked in the family shop and lived alone with his dog Tiny.

He had a passionate interest in antique cars and spent much of his time going to antique car rallies. He was found tied up in the hallway of his home by his nephew and his brother two days after the assault.

McGinley was found unanimously guilty of murder and he was given the mandatory life sentence by Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan on April 3, 2014. Mr Justice Sheehan also handed down a 10-year sentence for the false imprisonment charge and seven years for the burglary to run concurrently with the life sentence.

McGinley brought appeals against his conviction and sentence which was heard in the Court of Appeal yesterday. But that afternoon, the three-judge court dismissed both sets of appeals on all grounds.

McGinley was returned to prison where he will continue to serve his sentences.

Giving judgment on both sets of appeals, Mr Justice George Birmingham said McGinley had entered the home of Mr Gillespie in the course of a burglary.

Mr Gillespie was subjected to a serious degree of violence. He was pummelled and the house was ransacked. The house was like a “bomb had gone off,” according to one witness. A number of pieces of furniture were broken.

At one stage McGinley restrained Mr Gillespie by tying his hands behind his back with a cord and left him tied up.

Mr Gillespie was a “very well respected figure in his local community and his death was a great loss to his extended family,” the judge said.

A “powerful and moving” victim impact statement was presented to the Central Criminal Court, he said.

Mr Justice Birmingham said McGinley's lawyers, who had not represented him at trial, had “formulated a large number of grounds of appeal” none of which were raised at trial. They included multiple criticisms of the trial judge's charge to the jury

Mr Justice Birmingham said no one involved in the trial had any criticisms to make of the judge's charge. “Very understandably so,” he said, because the judge's charge was clear, concise and had accurately stated the law.

It was not at all surprising that there were no criticisms of it at the time, Mr Justice Birmingham said. “Quite simply there was nothing to criticise”.

Despite the industry deployed by lawyers who have since become involved, the Court of Appeal was of the view that “no point of substance has been raised” and the appeal against conviction was “not a meritorious one”.

Turning to McGinley's sentence appeal, Mr Justice Birmingham said the court could not conclude that the sentences were excessively severe.

The offences were of the utmost seriousness committed by a person with a significant prior record. McGinley had 21 previous convictions including convictions for burglary, robbery and assault.

Mr Justice Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice Alan Mahon and Mr Justice John Edwards, accordingly dismissed McGinley's sentence appeal.

McGinley held his head low while the judgment was delivered.