Judge's regret at 'sad and grim duty' to sentence former soldier to life for murder

A former British Army soldier was today found guilty of murder for stabbing a man to death outside a chip shop.

Donal Colgan (aged 66) had pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to the manslaughter of 44-year-old David Sheridan, who died after Mr Colgan stabbed him outside Luigi's takeaway on Dublin's North Strand Road on August 17, 2014.

The defence argued that Mr Colgan lost all self control when David Sheridan struck him on the head with a bag of cans.

The prosecution said that Mr Colgan attacked the deceased out of anger following an altercation seven minutes earlier outside the chip shop.

The jury reached their unanimous decision following five days of evidence and six hours and 44 minutes of deliberation.

Justice Tony Hunt thanked the eight women and three men, saying they had discharged a "very difficult task". He excused them from further service for 10 years.

In a statement read to the court by Garda Ronan Hobbs, Mr Sheridan's son Jake Fay said his dad was "not perfect, but he did his best" and he didn't deserve to die in the way he did.

He said his memories of his dad are of going to matches, cooking and watching television together and added that he will never forgive Donal Colgan.

Garda Hobbs told prosecuting counsel Paul Burns SC that Colgan had two previous convictions, one for assault and one under the Non-Fatal Offences Against the State Act.

Justice Hunt said he had the "sad and grim duty" of sentencing Colgan to life.

He said it is sometimes satisfying to send a person to prison but this was not one of those occasions.

While saying he could find no fault with the jury's decision, he said he is sure that Colgan did not go out that evening with any intention of doing what he did and that if he could turn back the clock he would.

He also offered his condolences to Mr Sheridan's family and said it was clear the deceased was a "nice man" who did not deserve to die in such a "cruel" way.

Justice Hunt also called on the legislature to look at the defence of provocation that was used by Colgan, particularly in cases where an accused person brings an offensive weapon "into play".

After speaking with and hugging members of his family, Colgan lead away to begin his life sentence.

Donal Colgan

The trial heard that Colgan, who joined the British Army aged 16 and was discharged after suffering injuries due to an explosion in the Libyan desert, had spent that Sunday evening drinking in the Sunset House.

He went to Luigi's for a bag of chips on his way home and while he was in the chip shop a number of young "lads" started "slagging him off".

When Mr Sheridan arrived with his friend Gary Kinlan CCTV footage showed Colgan pointing his fingers at them in what the prosecution said was an aggressive gesture.

As Colgan left the chip shop he became involved in a scuffle with Gary Kinlan. Giving evidence on Day 4 of the trial Colgan said Mr Kinlan punched him and then Mr Sheridan emerged from the chip shop and said: "Hit him with the bottles."

Mr Kinlan, he said, threw a bottle at him, striking him on the forehead and knocking him to the ground.

Giving his evidence Mr Kinlan said that Colgan was the first to throw a punch and described him as "cheeky" and "loud", shouting at everyone in the chip shop.

After being struck by the bottle Colgan said he was "dazed" and anger and frustration took over.

He walked to his nearby apartment, retrieved a kitchen knife and returned to Luigi's seven minutes after the initial scuffle with Mr Kinlan.

Colgan said he went back because he was angry at what had happened to him.

He said he had no idea what he intended to do and added: "I think it was to say, 'don't come near me again'."

He said he had no intention of stabbing anyone and although he was afraid, anger and frustration took over.

By the time he reached Luigi's, he said he started hoping that Mr Sheridan and Mr Kinlan would not be there. But they were there. First he saw Mr Kinlan, who ran away.

Then he said he was attacked by the deceased, who he said hit him on the head with a bag of cans.

He added: "I thought straight away here we go again. And I just lost complete control of myself."

It was from this that the defence of provocation was entered, with Justice Tony Hunt explaining to the jury that if a person accused of murder was provoked by the deceased to the point where he is no longer master of his own mind then he is guilty of manslaughter and not murder.

Justice Hunt explained that the loss of control must be sudden and that the situation cannot be created by the accused person.

The jury had asked Justice Hunt to explain the definition of provocation one more time this afternoon.

About 10 minutes later they came back with their verdict: guilty of murder.


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