Mother speaks of fears as son's killer is released from prison

NewsBy Sunday World
Darren Goodwin
Darren Goodwin

A woman whose only child was beaten to death with a hammer 13 years ago has said his killer should not have been freed as he is still a danger to society.

Darragh Conroy was only 14 when he was attacked by 15-year-old Darren Goodwin in a field near his home in Mountmellick, Co Laois, in November 2003.

Goodwin, now 28, was released from jail yesterday after serving time for murder.

However, Darragh's mother, Patricia, said Goodwin has never shown any remorse and she was told he never completed a course of forensic psychotherapy which was directed by the court as a condition of his release.

Goodwin's parole details, which have been seen by this paper, state that he was directed to receive the services of a forensic psychotherapist twice weekly.

"I've asked the Probation Service if he was getting the forensic psychotherapy as directed by the judge, and I was told he was getting therapy, but they would not elaborate on what specific type he got," Darragh's mother said.

"I'm worried he might do something to someone else. I think he's not rehabilitated to the directions of the court, yet he was freed regardless."

The Irish Prison Service was asked to comment on the level of psychotherapy Goodwin had received but no response was forthcoming.

At sentencing, Mr Justice Barry White used his discretion in imposing the life sentence after hearing all the details, including that Goodwin had "wanted to kill someone".

State Pathologist Prof Marie Cassidy said Darragh's skull "had been broken up and was like a jigsaw, with some of the pieces fallen out of the wounds".

The prosecution case rested on the evidence of several friends of Goodwin who testified that he had been talking about killing someone the week before and had admitted to the murder on the night in question.

One classmate gave evidence that Goodwin had said: "Jesus, I'd love to kill someone, someone that nobody cared about, like Darragh Conroy."

The trial heard Goodwin met his father for the first time shortly before he moved in with him, about six months before the attack. The teenager had tried to take his own life in September 2003.

When passing sentence, Judge White said Goodwin's psychological reports showed he was a danger to society. He had said the correct sentence for the "premeditated, brutal, callous murder" was life imprisonment to be reviewed 10 years later.

That review took place in September 2014 when clinical psychologist Dr Kevin Lamb determined that his risk for future violence would be low, but with a significant caveat involving his need for forensic psychotherapy.

Mr Justice White directed at the time that Goodwin receive therapy twice a week while in prison. He said he was not satisfied that the issue of remorse had been fully addressed.

Ms Conroy no longer lives in Mountmellick. Speaking from the new home she made for herself, she said there is not a day goes by when she does not think of Darragh or shed tears over what happened to him.

"My hopes, rather than my expectations, were that Darren Goodwin would get a sentence to reflect his crime. He hit Darragh once with a hammer from behind and then five times more as he lay on the ground," she said.

"Goodwin never appeared to be in any way sorry or remorseful, not even for show. There was no sign of remorse in court in July 2004, and no sign of remorse at the sentence review hearing in 2014.

"Darragh's murder has changed me so much. No- thing could hurt me as much as losing him.

"They were never friends, but they went to the same school. They could have bumped into each other at the shops as well, I suppose, but they weren't pals or anything."

Darragh only had his Nokia mobile phone a matter of weeks before he was murdered.

"I remember it well. It was cream and orange. We had talked that evening at 10 to five on the phone," said his mother.

"I had been at the chemist and I knew he wanted sweet and sour chicken for his dinner and I rang him and told him to be home at 7pm.

"But at 10 to six I got a terrible feeling, and when I rang him I got no answer. He hadn't been to his friends, and I started searching for him. I even looked in the field where he was found and didn't see him.

"Then a garda rang me and asked was I looking for Darragh, and as the search continued it obviously became known in one part of the town that he had been found and somebody urged the gardai to tell me the truth.

"When I went to the field a garda came towards me and I just said, 'He's dead, isn't he?' and he said he was.

"Darren Goodwin took Darragh's life and he took his phone.

"I adored Darragh. I still dream about him. I wonder what he would be like. I see his friends in relationships and getting jobs.

"I still buy him presents. Little things at birthdays and Christmas, and I leave them on his grave. That's the only way I can give them to him."

Asked about her feelings now, Ms Conroy said: "I can only describe it as a physical pain, a pain that will never go away, an emptiness that can't be filled.

"That's our lives now. We will never be the same."

Ms Conroy wrote to the prison service to voice her concerns over Goodwin's impending release and to ask why the psychology service did not attend the sentence review hearing in September 2014.

She received a reply in January last year in which the Director of Care and Rehabilitation of the prison service said that while no specific request was received from the court for a member of the psychology service to be there.

He and other senior psychologists "are clear in our shared view that it certainly would have been prudent for a member of the psychology service to have been present in court".

Despite her perception of a lack of forensic psychotherapy engaged in by Goodwin, Ms Conroy has since received a letter from the offices of the Tanaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald.

"The Tanaiste has asked that I assure you that all professionals engaged in this case have undertaken appropriate interventions with Mr Goodwin," it said.

It added that "a multi-agency post release programme" has been agreed to facilitate Goodwin's "safe reintegration" into the community.