Man admits killing pensioner found covered in blood, denies murder

Eugene Gillespie

The trial of a 30-year-old from Sligo accused of murdering a pensioner has heard that an anonymous 999 caller said a man was tied up in a house but investigating gardaí went to the wrong address.

Simon McGinley of Connaughton Road, Sligo has pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to the manslaughter of Eugene Gillespie (aged 67) in Co Sligo on September 22, 2012.

He pleaded guilty to the false imprisonment of Mr Gillespie and trespass to commit robbery at his home in Old Market Street on September 19, 2012.

The Central Criminal Court heard the manslaughter plea was not accepted by the State and a jury was sworn in for the two-week trial.

Mr Gillepsie was found covered in blood and unconscious by his brother and nephew on September 21 and died in hospital the next day.

When found, he was lying in the hallway of his home with his hands tied behind his back and his hands were swollen.

The court heard his neck was bruised and there was evidence of a ligature around it.

Mr Gillespie, who was last seen on September 19, had swelling on his forehead, eyelids and the back of his neck. He had suffered a fracture to the base of his skull and a broken jawbone.

The court heard the cause of death was bronchial pneumonia, due to the coma induced by blunt force trauma to his face, head and neck.

Mr Sean Gillane SC prosecuting told the court in his opening address that the deceased was a retired telecoms broker who also worked in the family shop and lived alone with his dog.

He had a passionate interest in antique cars and spent much of his time going to antique car rallies.

Mr Gillespie was last seen early on the evening of September 19 and he had made an arrangement to meet his partner the next day, which he did not turn up for.

Gardaí went to the wrong house

Mr Gillane said the deceased was subjected to a degree of violence with repeated blows and there was blood found in various places in his home.

He told the court an anonymous 999 call was made to gardaí on September 20.

Mr Gillane said that the caller indicated that there was a man tied up in a house near a brown gate opposite the barracks.

"The caller indicated to the guard that there was a man tied up in a house near a brown gate opposite the barracks," said Mr Gillane.

The court heard that investigating gardaí went out to a house but found nothing untoward there, as this was not the residence of Mr Gillespie.

The call, which Mr Gillane described as ‘terse’, lasted 10 seconds or less.

Mr Gillane submitted the 999 call was made by the accused from a telephone belonging to one of his acquaintances.

The next day Mr Gillespie was found by his nephew and brother tied up in his house. His false teeth were knocked out and his eyes were swollen.

An ambulance was called and Mr Gillespie, who was still breathing but unresponsive, was taken to Sligo General Hospital where he died the next day.

The deceased’s nephew Paul Gillespie said that he and his father Brian, who has since died, entered the house with a spare key after they became worried about him.

Mr Gillespie said he found his uncle lying on the ground with his hands tied behind his back.

He said he ran to the garda station, which was nearby, and phoned the ambulance.

He said he rang 999 and spoke to emergency services and the paramedics attended to his uncle at the scene.

Mr Gillespie said the kitchen was very badly ransacked “like something seriously went wrong in there”.

He testified that there was a chair badly broken and there was a green box on the table as well as a phone. He said his uncle’s wallet has not been seen since.

The witness said he went upstairs and one of the bedrooms was also badly ransacked.

He said his father noticed that his uncle’s hands were tied and he cut his hands free.

'He was generous, helpful, kind and thoughtful'

Mr Gillespie said his uncle’s dog was in the kitchen sitting on one of the chairs.

He said his uncle would not have been overly security conscious and that the front door had a two-lock system on it.

The deceased’s partner Joan Linnane described him as “generous, helpful, kind and thoughtful".

Ms Linnane testified that Mr Gillespie never kept money in the house and “didn’t believe in carrying cash.”

She said he would often stay with her at her home. She said she last spoke to him on Wednesday, September 19 at around 10.45pm and said he would see her the following evening.

The witness gave evidence that she rang him the following evening at 11.15pm and there was no reply but she was not that concerned.

On Friday she was growing uneasy and contacted Mr Gillespie’s family.

That night she was told by the Mr Gillespie’s sister that he had been taken to hospital and was told “things were not good”.

Ms Linnane told the court that Mr Gillespie’s dog ‘Tiny’ had a different bark for people coming to the door if he knew them.

She told Ms Dara Foynes BL prosecuting that Mr Gillespie did not drink and had not indicated concerns for his safety.

The trial continues with a jury of seven women and five men with Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan presiding.

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