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New evidence Pensioner’s murderer wants conviction quashed as jury not told of mental disorder

Mr Gillespie, a well-respected figure in his community, was found tied up in the hallway of his home by his nephew and his brother two days after McGinley assaulted him

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Eugene Gillespie

Eugene Gillespie

Eugene Gillespie

A murderer has asked for his conviction to be quashed because of new evidence that he had an undisclosed mental condition when he attacked a retired broker in his home, the Court of Appeal heard today (Oct 14).

Simon McGinley (38) had originally pleaded not guilty to the murder of Eugene Gillespie (67) at a house in Old Market Street, Sligo, on September 19, 2012, and had admitted manslaughter instead.

But his plea was not accepted by the State, and in April 2014 a jury unanimously found McGinley guilty of the murder of Mr Gillespie, a retired telecoms broker who worked in the family shop and lived alone with his dog Tiny.

Mr Gillespie, a well-respected figure in his local community who was known for his love of antique cars, was found tied up in the hallway of his home by his nephew and his brother two days after McGinley assaulted him. 

He died in hospital the following day after suffering a cardiac arrest.

McGinley was sentenced to life imprisonment and later lost appeals against his sentence and conviction.

Today, the Court of Appeal was told new evidence showed McGinley was displaying symptoms of schizophrenia when he attacked Mr Gillespie during a burglary, and it was submitted that under section 2 of the Criminal Procedure Act (1993) he has been a victim of a miscarriage of justice.

In a submission presented to the court by the defence, consultant forensic psychiatrist Dr Stephen Monks stated that, “with the benefit of hindsight, the description of symptoms recorded in the applicant’s GP records would be sufficient to diagnose schizophrenia”.

“The issue of whether or not the applicant was suffering from a mental disorder at the time of the index offence was not considered during the trial.”

Martin O’Rourke SC, for the appellant, told the three-judge court that in light of the new evidence, McGinley’s trial would have been “run differently” if his client’s mental state before the murder had been submitted in evidence.

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He said that a year before the killing, his client was suffering from auditory hallucinations and had been prescribed anti-psychotic medication. 

McGinley had also been suffering from alcohol and drug dependence syndrome, which Mr O’Rourke said was a recognised medical condition.

Such symptoms, counsel added, met “the diagnostic threshold for schizophrenia”.

Referring to the trial, Mr O’Rourke said there had been no dispute of the facts of the case.

He said the sole issue was one of intent and that the mental state of a defendant was “always relevant to the question of intent”.

Mr O’Rourke said any effect a medical condition had on an accused person’s actions was “fundamentally” a question for the jury to decide but the jurors had been deprived of this opportunity in this case. 

Responding to Mr O’Rourke’s submission, State counsel Sean Gillane SC said the court was being asked to quash a conviction that had been reaffirmed by the same court in 2016.

Mr Gillane said that people with mental disorders commit crimes every day of the week and that this was the first time he has heard an appeal submission “simply say there is a mental disorder, full stop”.

“I am still unsure what has been isolated as the new fact,” he added.

Mr Gillane also said Dr Monks’ report was “heavily caveated and contingent” and the court was being asked to consider it in an “evidential vacuum”.

“To urge mental disorder on its own is meaningless,” he added.

Mr Justice George Birmingham said the court was reserving judgment.

Evidence from earlier hearings:

At the trial, Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan also sentenced McGinley to 10-years for the false imprisonment and seven years for burglary.

Both sentences were to run concurrently with the life sentence.

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