NewsCrime Desk

Dublin man murdered 'mentally challenged' man in brutal killing

Kenneth Cummins
Kenneth Cummins

A Dublin man who murdered a "mentally challenged" 63-year-old man who had "the life strangled and squeezed out of him" has been jailed for life at the Central Criminal Court.

Kenneth Cummins (28) with an address at Ringsend Park, Dublin 4, pleaded not guilty to murdering Thomas Horan (63) at Cambridge Court, Ringsend on January 6, 2014.

A post-mortem examination showed that the deceased had head, neck and chest injuries consistent with a severe beating.

Kenneth Cummins and his sister Sabrina Cummins went on trial last year but four weeks into his trial on November 11, Kenneth Cummins changed his plea to guilty.

His sister was handed down a life sentence for the murder of Thomas Horan on November 20, 2015, by which time her brother was applying to vacate his guilty plea.

Last month, Mr Justice Tony Hunt refused the application.

The court heard this morning that Cummins has 77 previous convictions, including 46 public order convictions.

Defence counsel Ms Pauline Walley SC said that most of her client's convictions were associated with the consumption of alcohol.

"Mr Cummins has a background of excessive alcohol dependency and had a long life in foster care as a child," she said.

She said that her client came in the low range of intellectual functioning. 

"In the days and weeks prior to the offence, he had been admitted to Lakeview Hospital for depression and concerns about his safety," she said.

The court heard he had also been assessed by various psychiatrists to see if he was fit to plead or not.

"Psychiatrists came to the conclusion that this man was somebody who had a disruptive family life, had very serious issues with alcohol dependency, started drinking at the age of 12 and was very often homeless," said counsel.

Ms Walley said that her client said he was provoked by an abuse allegation made by Sabrina Cummins.

"Mr Cummins said he believed when Sabrina Cummins told him her and her sister had been abused by Thomas Horan. There is no evidence to support that but that is what he said to gardai," she said.

"There is ample evidence of a young life plighted by a lot of factors which a trial judge at a sentence would deem to be relevant," she added.

Upon handing down sentence, Mr Justice Tony Hunt said this was a case "where the current situation is" that Mr Cummins pleaded guilty, albeit at a late stage to a charge of murder.

"That is the position it is in now and Mr Cummins wants it to be otherwise. I propose to say no more about his withdrawal of the plea but that it has been rebuffed. Another court can express their views and the shenanigans that surrounds this straightforward case," he said.

Mr Justice Hunt said it was important to take a step back and look at the death which Mr Horan received at the hands of two individuals.

"This man received a slow death, the life was strangled and squeezed out of him over a long period of time. There must have been a contribution from both people," he said.

The judge said the deceased had not did received an easy death and "the deep and profound effect on his wife" has been very eloquently set out.

"They were still very close, the only abuse that went on in this case was the abuse of a man that was a soft touch. He was a modest, unassuming and gentle sort of man," he said.

Mr Justice Hunt told the court that while it could be said that Mr Cummins was not part of "an ongoing abuse of Mr Horan", the deceased did have a "long hard death at the hands of both individuals."

The judge concluded by saying that Mr Cummins had "very properly pleaded guilty" and he then imposed a life sentence which he backdated to January 8, 2014.

This morning, prosecution counsel Mr Gareth Baker BL called Garda Brian Hunt from Irishtown Garda Station to give evidence.

The court heard that Kenneth Cummins originally pleaded not guilty to the offence.

The trial took five weeks and it began in October 2015.

Gda Hunt agreed with Mr Baker that towards the latter stages of the trial, Mr Cummins was re-arraigned and pleaded guilty to the offence of murder.

The court heard that Mr Horan got married to his wife Marge in 1977 but they formally separated some years later.

They had given up a child for adoption as they were "somewhat limited in terms of intellect."

At the time of his death, Mr Horan was residing in sheltered accommodation in Cambridge Court in Ringsend.

On January 6, 2014, Sabrina Cummins made a 999 call to gardai.

"At the time she gave another name and reported that she discovered her friend dead at his home. Emergency services were dispatched to the scene," said counsel.

The court heard that it was not apparent at the time that Mr Horan met his death through violence.

"There was a very strong smell of white spirits when gardai attended the scene. They then came across Kenneth and Sabrina Cummins who had been sitting across the street," said Mr Baker.

The court heard that Sabrina Cummins did most of the talking to gardai at the time, in an attempt to mislead them at how she came to be at Cambridge Court in Ringsend.

"She said she had been on some errand and had looked through his window when she alerted gardai," said counsel.

The court heard that Sabrina Cummins has pushed her way into the apartment through gardai with the purpose of contaminating the scene.

Chief State Pathologist Marie Cassidy gave evidence during the trial that Mr Horan had been strangled to some extent and an obstruction to his respiratory system was consistent with suffocation.

White spirits were poured on his skin and he had a large number of broken ribs on either side.

A significant finding of particles of bone marrow were also found in his lung area.

Professor Cassidy noted that there were other marks and bruises to his body including fingernail and scratch marks to his neck.

"These were consistent with Mr Horan struggling for his life when he died," said counsel which Gda Hunt agreed with.

The court heard that Mr Horan's neighbour said he heard an altercation in the early hours of the morning with a female voice saying:  "Where is the wallet?"

Gda Hunt agreed with counsel that it was obvious that Mr Horan had been killed in a violent way.

He also agreed that Sabrina and Kenneth Cummins had been planning to leave the jurisdiction and go to London in the wake of the crime.

Upon arrest, Kenneth Cummins was interviewed five times.

In the first interview Kenneth Cummins told gardai that prior to the offence, he was in a facility called Lakeview Unit at Naas General Hospital as he was suffering from depression.

Mr Cummins told gardai that he went to Mr Horan's apartment on the night with his sister.

He had previously consumed four pints of beer, six cans and one bottle of Jameson whiskey.

He initially told gardai that he could not remember much about what happened but he provided significant detail in following interviews.

By the end of the first interview, Kenneth Cummins told gardai there had been an argument between his sister and Mr Horan.

"He said it was about money and that Sabrina Cummins alleged in the apartment that Mr Horan had sexually abused her and her sister. There was no evidential value to that and there was no abuse whatsoever. Sabrina Cummins gave evidence during the course of the trial and denied that ever happening," said Mr Baker.

In the second interview Kenneth Cummins told gardai his sister had asked him to give her a fork and a knife which she used to stab Mr Horan.

It is estimated that the attack lasted for 60 minutes.

Kenneth Cummins told gardai he was asked to hold Mr Horan's hands tight while she poured spirits down his throat.

"That did not tally with the evidence provided by the State Pathologist in the case but spirits were found at the location," said Mr Baker.

The court heard that the initial intent was to rob Mr Horan of €2,000.

It was put to Kenneth Cummins in interviews that he was prepared "to do whatever it took to get money" and he replied he was but that he did not expect it to go that far.

Mr Cummins told gardai that he hit Mr Horan in the arms, head and stomach and he also hit him with a stick up to four times.

He told gardai he hit the deceased as hard as he could around the rib area with his final strike.

A plastic bag was put over Mr Horan's head for up to twenty minutes.

Mr Baker said it appeared that the brother and sister also put a belt around Mr Horan's neck.

When gardai asked Mr Cummins if he meant to kill the deceased, the answer was no.