Man who stored body in freezer for five years to be sentenced on Friday

A Galway father-of-four, who beat a Dublin criminal to death and stored his body in a freezer for five years, will be sentenced on Friday at the Central Criminal Court.

Edward Griffin (aged 45) of Cimin Mor, Cappagh Road, Knocknacarra, Galway pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of 52-year-old Patrick McCormack in June 2002 at a fish shop on Henry Street in Galway.

Michael O’Higgins SC, prosecuting, told Mr Justice Paul Carney that the defendant was in the drugs business, mainly cannabis, with McCormack of Artane Cottages in the capital. They had a falling out over money and had a fight.

Griffin had initially been charged with murder, but the DPP accepted his plea to manslaughter on the grounds of self-defence with excessive and unreasonable force used.

According to Griffin, the only eyewitness, the Dubliner went to the fish shop where Griffin worked. Griffin gave him €13,000 in the prep area at the back of the shop. When McCormack became angry and demanded more, Griffin turned to get more cash from the freezer.

The accused said McCormack then hit him over the back of the head with a wheel brace he had brought with him and both men began to fight. Griffin managed to take McCormack’s wheel brace and use it against him.

He said McCormack slipped on the ice as he was not wearing anti-slip shoes. He hit him again before going into the shop to get some rope with which to tie him and prevent him fighting. Griffin told gardai he didn’t know that at that stage McCormack had “no fight left in him”.

When he came back with the rope, he realised McCormack was dead. He tied him up, put the body in a bin and into a walk-in freezer behind the shop.

D Sgt Beirne said Griffin admitted the killing to a colleague, a Mr McCarthy. “I fu**ed up this time. I killed some scumbag who owed me money,” Griffin said at the time, according to Mr McCarthy, who came across the body in 2005, but said nothing.

The defendant never tried to move the body, even when he left the job in 2006. It wasn’t until the Department of Marine notified the owner of an inspection in June 2007 that the body was discovered during a clear out.

McCormack’s hands had been tied and he had visible injuries. A post-mortem examination showed 40 injuries, 17 of which were to the head, with three of the head injuries being fractures. Cause of death was given as blunt force trauma to the head and face. There was also subdural haemoragging.

Griffin told gardai he feared for his life and the safety of his family, who McCormack threatened to kill. He said McCormack also threatened to dismember a third party and to cut off Griffin’s fingers, one by one, until just one remained so he could call a mutual aquaintance for more money.

Griffin said the fight was a “life and death, blow for blow” struggle, which lasted what seemed like a lifetime. He thought McCormack wouldn’t let it stop.

Detective Sergeant William Beirne said Mary Kilcommins, was working inside the shop that day. After the body’s discovery, she told gardai Griffin had run into the shop “hyper” and said: “He hit me. Is my head cut?”

She said there was blood on Griffin’s head and he warned her not to come outside. However she went out and saw Griffin standing near the freezer and saw the lower part of a man’s body on the ground.

Ms Kilcommins said she later received a call from the defendant warning her that she “saw nothing”. She since received similar warnings from him, including while he was being detained in a garda station following his arrest.

Det. Sgt Beirne said Griffin described taking a couple of hours to clean up after the killing and driving his victim’s car to Shannon to make it look like he’d gone away.

McCormack hadn’t notified his friends and family of his movements and they thought he had disappeared off the face of the earth. Two friends checked hotels in Galway and drew a blank, until his car was found abandoned.

He said Griffin had previous convictions for handling stolen property, drugs motor and public order offences.

He described McCormack as a career criminal with 15 convictions dating back to his juvenile years, he was identified by his fingerprints using the Garda database.

He was jailed for five years in 1988 for robbery with a fire-arm and also had convictions for robbery with violence and larceny. He was previously Patrick Wynne, but changed his name by deed poll.

Defence barrister Feargal Kavanagh SC, added that Mc Cormack had once been shot by gardaí while attempting to commit armed robbery.

Det. Sgt Beirne accepted that “it was going to be last man standing” in the fish shop that day and that Griffin was a cocaine addict at the time.

The dead man’s daughters said they spent five years wondering what happened to their father. Through victim impact statements read to the court, Jeanine and Jade Brogan said that as his car had been found in Shannon, they believed he had left the country.

They expected him to make contact every Christmas and were extremelly disappointed when he did not send a card for Jeanine’s 21st birthday.

When they found out he had died, they felt guilty about their doubt and anger. Jeanine returned to work for only a week after her father’s funeral before beginning a year-long battle with depression.

As the coffin was closed, the women felt they did not get to say good bye to their father, whom they never knew to be violent, but warm and generous.

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