A JURY has found four brothers guilty on Tuesday of the manslaughter of a paedophile and his partner.
However, the jury cleared Niall, Martin, Christopher and Stephen Smith of the murder of Thomas O’Hare and Lisa McClatchey at the couple’s home near Tassagh, County Armagh, in 2006.
The brothers had admitted breaking into the house, beating Mr O’Hare and pouring petrol around the property, but denied intending to kill either victim.
They were also found not guilty of arson, but guilty of attempted arson.
Mr O’Hare and Ms McClatchey died of the injuries they suffered in the fire at the house. The four brothers were also badly burned.
They claimed their intention had been restricted to burning the house in a bid to force Mr O’Hare from the area.
During the trial – which lasted more than three weeks – the court heard that Mr O’Hare had sexually abused Stephen Smith, the youngest of the four brothers, many years earlier.
At the time, Mr O’Hare was aged 17 and Stephen Smith eight or nine.
The jury retired to consider its verdict at noon on Monday and delivered it at around 3.30 pm on Tuesday.
During the three-week trial. Crown counsel Toby Hedworth QC told the jury at Armagh Crown Court that the brothers wanted to punish Thomas O’Hare for something he had done years before.
In April 1998, Thomas O’Hare pleaded guilty to indecently assaulting three children in the late 1980s.
At the time, he would have been about 17.
Mr Hedworth said the prosecution case would be that on the night of the murders the four brothers, all masked and carrying sledgehammers, burst into the home Mr O’Hare shared with Ms McClatchey.
The torched bungalow in Keady which was attacked in November 2006 by four masked men.
The torched bungalow in Keady which was attacked in November 2006 by four masked men
He said they beat Mr O’Hare, then doused the house with petrol and set it alight.
He gave an account of the night in question and the terrible injuries suffered by the couple, who died days later.
The Smith brothers too suffered burns that night.
It was the prosecution case, said Mr Hedworth that these were sustained during the same incident.
Neighbour Seamus Loughran was at home with his 11-year-old daughter when he heard “a very loud banging” on his front door.
The door was opened by his daughter who then slammed it shut again and ran to him “in hysterics” saying there was somebody at the front door “covered in blood”.
Unsure of what was happening, Mr Loughran initially locked the door.
He came to realise, however, that it was a badly injured Lisa McClatchey who was outside and he began a frantic effort to try to help her.
He described how she had been naked from the waist up, badly injured, but conscious throughout, and able to describe to him how a gang of men had attacked the home.
Mr Loughran said Ms McClatchey’s principal concern had been for Thomas O’Hare. She told him Mr O’Hare was still in the burning house.
She asked Mr Loughran to remove what was left of her jeans as her belt buckle was so hot that it was searing into her.
Mr Loughran did this and wrapped her in a nightgown belonging to his wife.
He spoke to the emergency services by phone, then set off towards the burning house, shouting Mr O’Hare’s name as he went.
He found Mr O’Hare lying by the side of the road. He had been so badly injured that Mr Loughran, who had known him all his life, said he was barely recognisable.
Two other neighbours arrived and they stayed with Mr O’Hare while Mr Loughran went back to his house.
He brought his daughter, who was still hysterical, to a neighbour’s house and then checked on Ms McClatchey. He then ran back to Mr O’Hare with a sheet.
He and a neighbour used the sheet to carry Mr O’Hare back to Mr Loughran’s home.
By this time, more people had arrived, including Mr O’Hare’s sister and niece.
Mr Justice Ronnie Weatherup remanded all brothers into custody and will pass sentence at a later date following the preparation of pre-sentence reports.
They could face between eight and 15 years in jail for their manslaughter convictions.