Woman guilty of murdering a 'mentally challenged' man

CourtsBy Sunday World
Sabrina Cummins
Sabrina Cummins

A woman has been found guilty of murdering a "mentally challenged" 63-year-old man who was subjected to what the prosecution described as a "protracted torturing and killing".

Sabrina Cummins (37) with an address at Ringsend Park, Dublin 4, pleaded not guilty to murdering Thomas Horan (63) at Cambridge Court, Ringsend on January 6 last year.

After a period of five hours and 12 minutes deliberating a jury of six men and six women brought in a unanimous verdict of guilty at the Central Criminal Court.

Upon hearing the verdict Cummins held back her tears before running out of the courtroom and sobbing loudly at the holding cell. 

Mr Justice Tony Hunt then thanked the twelve members of the jury for their work and the attention they had put into the case.

He also told them he "thoroughly agreed" with their verdict. 

"Jury service is never easy and there are difficult aspects not least the emotion that underlines these things.  After five weeks work on your part, I listened to all of the evidence too, although I don’t have any vote on these things, I think your verdict is correct and amply justified," said Mr Justice Hunt. 

The judge then the court it was "abundantly clear" from the medical evidence that Mr Horan met a horrific death as well as there being the input of more than one person in this event. 

"The surrounding evidence of CCTV is a good window into what was going on that night and the enormous amount of lies told," he added.

Mr Justice Hunt finally thanked the jury and said to them, he hoped they found it interesting to see how the system works "warts and all."

He exempted them from jury service for the next twenty years before adding that the way Mr Horan died was "nothing only than depressing."

"Your function is now over," he concluded.

Both Sabrina Cummins and her brother Kenneth Cummins (28) will be sentenced on Friday when a victim impact statement will be read.

Kenneth Cummins, the younger brother of Sabrina Cummins pleaded not guilty to the charge initially but last week, four weeks into the trial he changed his plea to guilty. 

At the time the judge told the jury that this brought its involvement in the trial of Kenneth Cummins to an end and they now had one trial to deal with, that of his sister Sabrina Cummins.

Opening the trial prosecution counsel Mr Remy Farrell SC told the jury that a brother and sister murdered an elderly man in an attempt to cover up a robbery.

Counsel said that both accused called to the victim's house in the early hours of the morning in question. Their intention was to get money, he said, adding, "They decided to rob him and decided to kill him."

Mr Farrell said that the jury would hear evidence that Mr Horan was "severely beaten," had a rope placed around his neck, a bag placed over his head, and that there was an "attempt to poison him" with cleaning fluids.

The court heard they would hear evidence from a neighbour of the victim who, in the early hours of the morning, heard the victim's voice and the voices of a man and woman.

He said post mortem evidence would show that Mr Horan's death was caused by head, neck and chest injuries, "very significant and substantial injuries you might associate with a savage beating."

Both Kenneth and Sabrina Cummins were arrested two days after Mr Horan's body was found. 

A woman who called herself Joanna called 999 saying she had found the body of her friend, the court heard.

Garda Ciaran Sweeney gave evidence and told the court that he was on patrol on the morning in question when, at 5am, he was dispatched to the area of the alleged murder.

Gda Sweeney said that he noticed a couple sitting on the wall outside the Old Presbytery on Cambridge Rd. "They were the only people around," he said.

A woman who he identified in court as the accused, Sabrina Cummins, approached Gda Sweeney. "She identified herself as the 999 caller," he said.

Gda Sweeney told the jury that Cummins told him that she was on her way home when she saw the victim's body through the window of his apartment.

It was "absolutely impossible" to see in the window Ms Cummins had referred to, Gda Sweeney told the court.

The jury also heard that the deceased was found "hunched in a foetal position" at his home in the hours following his death.

Giving evidence Micheál Carroll of Dublin Fire Brigade told Mr Farrell that when he arrived at the home of the deceased: "He (Mr Horan) had a deathly pallor and there was a bluey grey colour to him - it would mean he would have been deprived of oxygen for some time at some stage."

When State Pathologist Professor Marie Therese Cassidy gave evidence she said the deceased died as a result of asphyxia at his home in January 2014.

"There were signs of asphyxia and his face was red and congested. It had a deep red colouring and the white of the eye was congested. These are indications that somebody has been asphyxiated. That may well be the cause of death," she continued.

Professor Cassidy said that such signs can appear in people who die from natural causes such as a heart attack but that hemorrhaging would suggest there was something blocking the neck.

 "The area above the adams apple had an area of reddening. It had the appearance of a burn or chemical burn. Something like white spirits could have caused this," she said.

Mr Desmond Farrell, a neighbour of the deceased also told the trial that he heard a woman's voice say "where's the wallet" in the home of the deceased early on the morning of January 6th last year.

During the trial it was given in evidence that a number of fingerprints were found in the home of the deceased which were attributed to the two accused.

The court also heard from witness Mr Jim Muldoon, who was the brother-in-law of the deceased. Mr Horan was previously married to Mr Muldoon's sister Margaret.

"At the time of Thomas Horan's death they were separated but not legally. They both had their own difficulties, both of them were mentally challenged," said the witness.

Prosecution counsel Mr Farrell asked Mr Muldoon was there any question of Mr Horan having fostered children in the past?

The witness replied saying there was "no question that he could be allowed on account of his difficulties."

Mr Muldoon also said Mr Horan was "mentally challenged" and "an easy touch".

 A social worker who was also called to give evidence told the court that Sabrina Cummins and her sister Breda were never fostered by Mr Horan.

Sabrina Cumins told gardai in an interview that her brother Kenneth Cummins could be "extremely violent" and "very evil" at times.

In another statement Ms Cummins said she knew Mr Horan since she was 18 years of age and he was like a father to her because her own father was not around.

 "I met Tom through my sister Breda in Ranelagh who is now deceased. He was always very good to me and I use to stay with him a lot," Cummins told gardai. 

The final interview was conducted by Detective Garda David Wogan attached to Donnybrook Garda Station with Sabrina Cummins on January 9 2014 where she said;  "It was me and my brother, things got out of hand and it shouldn’t have. I’m terrified of going to jail. Kenneth can be extremely violent, it just got out of hand. I lost the head as well, I pulled Tom by the hair and gave him a punch, I kicked him in the leg and told him to shut his mouth or Kenny would kill him. It’s a horrible thing to do and it went wrong, I’m so sorry, it’s a horrible accident," said Cummins to gardai.

Later in the interview Cummins told gardai: “I hurt Tom and I'm sorry. We killed Tom. I had a part with the belt, a part with the plastic bag and a part with the bottle and I'm sorry."

Det Gda Wogan went on to say that Cummins had given them a lot of specific details about the crime and what Kenneth had done.

"She seemed very eager to tell us what Kenneth had done, in no way suggesting she was involved herself. In Ms Cummins first three interviews she made herself out to be an injured party. Ms Cummins clearly had an agenda for the first three interviews," he said.

When defence counsel Mr Blaise O'Carroll SC asked his client during the trial how she met the deceased Thomas Horan, she told him it was through her sister Breda who was living upstairs above Mr Horan in Ranelagh at the time.

 "Tom was living downstairs under Breda. I got to know Tom, he was a very nice man like a dad to me and he always helped me with everything. If I had a fight with my partner I'd go to stay with him, he always made sure I had food before I put my head down, he was very good to me," said Cummins.

Cummins then admitted punching and kicking the deceased but told a jury that her brother is responsible for his death.

Mr O'Carroll then put it to his client that the prosecution are saying she "murdered" Mr Horan and what did she have to say to this?

"Its not true," she said.

 Mr O'Carroll then asked Cummins who was "responsible" for the death of Mr Horan?

 "My brother Kenneth," she answered.

In cross examination the court heard Mr Horan asked Cummins for his life but she "started attacking him" with her brother because she "lost the head."

"The guy that murdered my sister, I saw his face on Tom," said Cummins.

"I only kicked Tom and punched him, I didn’t do anything else to Tom. There was a belt there and a knife, I had no part in that. When he (Kenneth) goes off on one, he goes off on one," said Cummins.  

Prosecution counsel told the jury in his closing speech that this was "a protracted torturing and killing of another human being."

The barrister told the jury they could deal with the case of Sabrina Cummins in "two minutes flat".

Under cross examination Sabrina Cummins agreed with prosecution counsel that she kicked and punched Mr Horan and "joined in" trying to kill him.

"This morning Sabrina Cummins admitted to murder in the witness box. On Wednesday she told us she kicked and punched Thomas Horan. I wanted to find out when she did that, at what point in the proceedings. She was very clear, she said it was in between the strangling and suffocation of Thomas Horan," said Mr Farrell.

"Sabrina lays into Thomas Horan with Kenneth Cummins. She justifies it by saying she saw the face of the man who murdered her sister, it is very hard to understand that. She is explicitly clear when she said she kicked and punched Thomas Horan that she had an intention to kill, that is all you need ladies and gentlemen," said Mr Farrell.

Counsel said "even on her best version of events", Cummins participated with her brother Kenneth Cummins in the killing of Thomas Horan.

"Intent can be formed just like that and you have it from Sabrina Cummins," added the barrister.

By Alison O'Riordan