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'Despicable crime' Mum who was on phone to son when he was murdered says it 'will haunt us forever'

She described the shooting as devastating and an "act of brutality that we could never imagine".

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A photo of Thomas Farnan who was murdered in April 2016 PIC: Collins Courts

A photo of Thomas Farnan who was murdered in April 2016 PIC: Collins Courts

A photo of Thomas Farnan who was murdered in April 2016 PIC: Collins Courts

A mum who was on the phone to her son when he was shot dead by a caller to his front door has told the Central Criminal Court that the "brutal" murder will haunt her family forever.

Ivona Shortt said her son, Thomas Farnan (37), was a "big friendly giant" who was loved for his quick wit, kindness and generosity. She said her family cannot understand why he was killed and she called on the courts to serve justice on those responsible for the "despicable crime".

Ms Shortt's words were contained in a statement which was read out at a sentencing hearing for Lorcan Merriman (26) of Lealand Close, Clondalkin, Dublin.

Merriman, who has spent almost quarter of his life in custody for various crimes including possession of a sub-machine gun, pleaded guilty last year to disposing of the gun that was used to murder Mr Farnan.

Merriman had been on trial accused of Mr Farnan's murder but the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) agreed to drop the murder charge after the accused offered to plead guilty to preventing the apprehension of the murderer by disposing of the gun, which has not been found.

Ms Shortt said that she could never have known that when she called her son for a chat on April 25, 2016, that the call would end when he was shot dead. She described the shooting as devastating and an "act of brutality that we could never imagine".

She said she has spent years wondering who killed her son and why and described her anxiety that her son's killers might be in her community, maybe even standing next to her in the local shop.

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Ivona Shortt, mother of Thomas Farnan who was murdered in April 2016

Ivona Shortt, mother of Thomas Farnan who was murdered in April 2016

Ivona Shortt, mother of Thomas Farnan who was murdered in April 2016

She added: "Tom is a statistic to many but he is not a statistic to me; he is my son, my child who I brought lovingly into this world as an innocent life. The way he died will haunt us forever."

Speaking outside court Ms Shortt recalled that she was speaking to her son on the phone when he asked her to "hang on mam, there's someone at the door". When she didn't hear from him again she presumed he had forgotten about her and she went to bed.

A short time later she was told that Thomas had been shot. She said she thought it was a mistake but drove to Thomas's house where she saw the "horrific scene" surrounded by roadblocks, ambulances and police.

She added: "Tom was so funny, he was a big chap and so funny and had the funniest laugh. He loved life and he had two little dogs, Marley and Missy, and he brought them everywhere with him. He was so kind and really, really good-natured."

Making sense of his killing is "the hardest part" she said, describing it as a "senseless act that should never have happened".

In court Detective Superintendent Colm O'Malley told Roisin Lacey SC, for the DPP, that Mr Farnan was shot dead in front of his partner Elaine Heffernan at 23.20 as he answered a knock at the front door of their ground floor apartment at Kilcronan Close in Clondalkin.

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The shooter fired six shots at Mr Farnan, hitting him five times and causing nine injuries including the fatal injury to his chest.

Neighbours saw a man running out of the estate towards a walkway along the Royal Canal with a gun in his hand moments after hearing the series of gun blasts. Neighbours and paramedics tried to revive Mr Farnan but he did not recover from his injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene shortly after midnight.

Det Sgt O'Malley said Merriman became a person of interest in the investigation and gardai searched his home at Lealand Close where they found a pair of jeans and a jacket. Forensic investigators found gunshot residue on the clothes that matched residue from the discharged cartridges found at the scene.

Following a further search of Merriman's home in May 2016, gardai discovered a sub-machine gun and 25 rounds of ammunition hidden in the attic.

Det Sgt O'Malley said the sub-machine gun was not the gun used to shoot Mr Farnan. Merriman was sentenced in 2018 to five years in prison for possession of the firearm in suspicious circumstances. He is still serving that sentence.

Sgt O'Malley said he has known Merriman for years. He was an accomplished footballer, playing with Peamount United in his early teens, but he drifted away and "became involved with individuals in Clondalkin". Merriman started committing petty crimes and moved on to more serious crime after becoming involved with a criminal gang, the sergeant said.

He detailed multiple convictions against Merriman at the District Court for theft, burglary, robbery, possession of knives, criminal damage, breach of the peace, intoxication in public and possession of drugs for sale or supply.

Fiona Murphy SC for Merriman told the court that her client pleaded guilty as soon as it was clear that the DPP would accept the lesser charge. She said that her client's offending was linked to his drug use but in prison, urinalysis shows he is drug free since January of this year.

She said he has spent almost one quarter of his life in custody but in 2020 he reached a turning point in his life. She said he is an enhanced prisoner with special duties and is considered by staff to be a model prisoner.

He has undertaken numerous courses while in prison. She said he went "off the rails" in his teens after his parents separated and is "paying for it dearly having been in custody for the last six years".

Mr Justice David Keane will sentence Merriman on March 30.

A statement from Mr Farnan's partner Elaine Heffernan was also read at today's hearing. She described how "my Tom" died in her arms. She is suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, takes medication to prevent panic attacks and is frightened every time someone calls to her door. She said: "All we had was each other, he was my life, we were soul mates."

He was the "most loving person you could come across and was loved by everyone. Tom and I deserve some justice for Tom's life being taken away and my life being taken too."

Mr Farnan's son Sean O'Connor said he and his dad had decided to build their relationship in the months before he died. He said: "I was so happy and filled with joy. What could possibly go wrong? It was the only thing I ever really wanted. Then I wake up to this nightmare six months later. All our plans taken from us."

He added: "I miss my Dad beyond words and I miss all the opportunities we did not get to experience. He was my dad and nobody in this world had the right to take his life."

Mr Farnan's sister, Jenny Farnan, said that Tom was "the best brother anyone could ask for. He was there for me my whole life as a father figure, brother and friend."

She said it is hard to put into words the "heartbreak, darkness and loneliness knowing I will never see my big brother again." She said she has a constant longing to see his big smile that "always made my day brighter". She said she will never know why he was killed and his killing will "haunt me for the rest of my life".

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