McGahern guilty of murdering Amy Farrell, 21, on front lawn

A Cavan man has been found guilty of murdering a mother of one by stabbing her to death on the front lawn of her home a day after she gave evidence in court against a friend of his.

A jury of eight men and four women found Brendan McGahern (aged 28), with an address at Corlismore in Co Cavan, guilty of murdering Amy Farrell (aged 21), at Glenlara, Cavan, on January 20, 2006.

It took the jury hearing the case in the Central Criminal Court at Dublin just over one hour to return their verdict.

Miss Farrell’s family openly wept as the foreman read the verdict.

Mr Justice Paul Carney sentenced McGahern to the mandatory life term and excused the jury members from having to do jury service for the rest of their lives.

“These cases are distressing for everybody concerned,” he said.

Miss Farrell’s father addressed the court after the verdict saying he did not want to sound like an angry or grief stricken parent but he is all of those things.

“I am angry and I am heartbroken,” he said.

“I never thought we’d see the day that I would be standing in court trying to paint a picture, so publicly of our most cherished daughter, but here I am.”

During the seven-day trial the court heard Miss Farrell, a mother of one, had moved to Cavan from Leixslip in November 2005 to live with her best friend Sharon Cosgrove.

During the six weeks she lived in the town she became associated with Brendan Kelly, who was friends with McGahern.

On January 19, the day before McGahern killed her, Miss Farrell gave evidence in the Virginia District Court against Kelly who had assaulted her and stolen two of her cars.

McGahern was at court with Kelly and his girlfriend Stephanie Cahill and Kelly was sentenced to 16 months to be served in Castlerea Prison.

Gardaí gave evidence during the trial indicating that they suspected Kelly had a part to play in Miss Farrell’s demise after mobile phone records showed a phone registered to Miss Cahill was being used in the Castlerea area and the number corresponded with a contact named “Brendan” in McGahern’s phone.

McGahern has strenuously denied Kelly had any involvement or influence in what happened and Kelly refused to answer gardaí questions about the mobile phone, the court heard.

Her father told the court Miss Farrell had not been in Cavan long enough to make friends there.

They had taught their daughter to treat everyone the way she wanted to be treated.

“Even if someone was bad Amy saw the good in them. She wore her heart on here sleeve. On reflection this is probably the worst advice we gave her,” Mr Farrell told the court.

His daughter was a breech birth and he said the family had been lucky to have her at all.

She had been born with a birthmark on the left hand side of her face and was bullied throughout her school life.

“To push on to the last weeks of Amy’s life, Amy did what she was brought up to do and what she would have wanted to do, she saw a crime and reported it,” he said.

“This shows her character, resilience and determination to always do the right thing.”

He said the horrendous crime had broken their hearts.

“It has turned off a most brilliant light, a light can never be replaced or turned on again, only in our memories.”

The court heard McGahern had been at Miss Farrell’s home earlier on January 20 and he had accidentally locked her out of the house when she had left him inside to go and get babysitting money for her niece.

She had called him an “idiot” and they had laughed the court heard.

Miss Farrell went into town to get another set of house keys off Miss Cosgrove.

McGahern returned to her home later that evening and sat in the lounge asking her what she was doing that evening, a Friday night.

Anthony Gerard Smith was at the house when McGahern was there.

He said McGahern asked to speak with Miss Farrell outside and moment after they left the house he heard Miss Farrell screaming and went outside to see her on the ground, McGahern standing over her.

“I saw him strike her but it was only when he stood back that I realised what he was doing,” Mr Smith said during the trial.

He saw a knife in McGahern’s hand.

“During the time he was standing over her ‘don’t f*** with us’ he was saying that,” Mr Smith said.

Mr Smith told Mr Alex Owens SC for the director of public prosecutions he saw McGahern run off towards Cavan town, as Miss Farrell lay motionless on the ground.

McGahern had pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility but the DPP refused to accept the plea.

Mr David Kennedy SC for McGahern said his client was labouring under a mental illness at the time that substantially diminished his responsibility for the killing.

McGahern parents, Eileen and Brendan senior told the court during the trial their son was illiterate, had been bullied as a child and was always different.

He was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck and they had tried to get help for their son but there were no facilities in Ireland to take him.

Evidence was given McGahern had a learning disability but psychologists who gave evidence told the court they did not believe it had impacted on Miss Farrell’s death.

Before the jury retired just after 11am yesterday Mr Justice Paul Carney had reiterated it was on the defence to prove McGahern was labouring under a mental illness that substantially diminished his responsibility for killing Miss Farrell.

He said if they found the defence had done enough to prove that, McGahern would be guilty of manslaughter.

In returning a verdict of guilty of murder just after 12pm the jury rejected that defence.

After Mr Farrell finished addressing the court Mr Kennedy said McGahern wanted Miss Farrell’s family and the court to know he was sorry for what he did and he regretted what happened.

Mr Justice Carney backdated McGahern’s life sentence to January 20, 2006 and refused leave to appeal.

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