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Virus death Convicted killer John Walsh becomes first prisoner in Irish jail to die from Covid-19

Walsh only began his life sentence for the murder when he completed his eight-year prison term for drug offences.

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John Walsh who was out on bail when he murdered Fermoy man John McManus

John Walsh who was out on bail when he murdered Fermoy man John McManus

John Walsh who was out on bail when he murdered Fermoy man John McManus

A CONVICTED murderer has become the first inmate in Ireland to die from Covid-19, the Sunday World can reveal.

John Walsh, (56) was serving a life sentence for the murder of John McManus, who was found beaten to death and dumped in a ditch in Kerry in 2008.

Walsh, with addresses in in Ballinlough, Cork and Mitchelstown, Co Cork, had been suffering from terminal cancer in the Midlands jail for some time, it is understood. He then contracted Covid-19 and was rushed to Portlaoise hospital over the weekend.

He died on Monday.

When contacted, the Irish Prison Service (IPS) confirmed his death said: “The Irish Prison Service can confirm a Death in Custody in the Midlands Prison on the November 15th. All deaths in custody are investigated by the Irish Prison Service, the Inspector of Prisons and An Garda Síochána, where circumstances warrant. The cause of death is determined by the Coroner's office.”

At his sentencing hearing in 2010, the court heard that Walsh was on bail when he beat his brain-injured young victim to death, inflicting over 100 separate injuries. John McManus was just 25 years old when he was murdered.

Walsh only began his life sentence for the murder when he completed his eight-year prison term for drug offences.

Before he committed murder, Walsh had 12 previous convictions -- including one for assault causing harm where he repeatedly ‘pricked’ a woman in the face and back with a knife during a house party.

When he killed Mr McManus, Walsh was on High Court bail facing a charge of being in possession, for sale or supply, of drugs worth more than €13,000.

The trial heard that the young victim had suffered a serious brain injury in a traffic accident on Halloween 1996. His sister, Mary, revealed that Mr McManus almost died in the ambulance on his way to hospital.

Mr McManus was made a ward of court, received a €600,000 damages award and was given two small weekly payments. However, he was only capable of semi-independent living -- and had developed a drug problem.

Walsh insisted he did not intend to kill Mr McManus - but had only acted in self-defence.

However, the McManus family told the trial that Mr McManus had been desperate for money in the last days of his life, explaining that he owed money to people.

After being battered to death, Mr McManus’s bloodsoaked body was left for over a day by a bed in his flat -- before Walsh put the body in the boot of his car where it remained for four days.

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He then drove to Ballyduff in Co Kerry where he dumped the body in a ditch by a bog.

Meanwhile, details of Covid outbreaks in the prison system have been discussed in court over the past two days.

Today, the governor of Cloverhill Prison told a High Court judge that the prison service has entered a “silo mentality” amidst serious outbreaks of Covid-19, with no inter-prison transfers happening and his own prison not producing prisoners to “any court in the land”.

Governor Anthony Harris said the “majority” of Cloverhill has closed down, with all but essential service prisoners “behind doors” due to “a serious outbreak” of Covid-19.

“There are no showers, no exercises, no anything,” Governor Anthony Harris told the court.

The court was also told that the Midlands Prison in Portlaoise - where murderer John Walsh was housed and contracted Covid - was also impacted by an outbreak of the virus, as is "one element" of Mountjoy Prison.

Meanwhile Wheatfield Prison is a "sterile prison", the court heard.

Yesterday, Mr Justice Paul McDermott invited a senior Prison Service member to attend the Central Criminal Court today to clarify the ongoing disruption to criminal cases due to Covid outbreaks in the prisons network after a prisoner could not be produced for trial on Tuesday.

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