A killer who left a nightclub after a struggle, armed himself with a knife after which stabbed his sufferer 5 instances when one other struggle broke out has been jailed for 9 years by a central prison courtroom decide.
Decide Paul Burns handed down the sentence to Nathan O’Neill, who drew a knife throughout a struggle with two unarmed males and stabbed Jamie Higgins to demise.
O’Neill has a prison file for making threats to kill and possessing a knife. In a sufferer affect assertion, Jamie’s sister Leanne advised the courtroom that O’Neill killed not only one particular person however the whole household.
The decide stated the introduction of the knife was a considerable aggravating issue. “When confronted with two towards one, he was the one who launched the knife going out and coming again with the weapon,” he stated.
The decide stated it was clear from statements made by Mr Higgins’ mom, companion and sister that the deceased was “a lot liked and his demise had a profound affect on these near him”.
O’Neill, 24, of Hill High Drive, Dooradoyle, Limerick, has been tried twice for homicide after a jury failed to achieve an settlement following his first trial in early 2022.
He had pleaded not responsible to homicide however responsible to the manslaughter of Jamie Higgins on the Shannon Knights nightclub in Shannon, Co Clare within the early hours of 18 March 2018.
A jury acquitted him of the homicide cost and located him responsible of manslaughter final December after his second trial. He additionally pleaded responsible to inflicting grievous hurt to Michael Shannon on the identical date and in the identical place.
Decide Burns set the principal sentence for the felony manslaughter crime at 14 years, however after taking into account O’Neill’s first responsible plea, cooperation with Garda, and real regret, lowered it to 10 years , with the final 12 months suspended for 3 years. .
He additionally famous that O’Neill had an inexpensive work historical past previous to the homicide and that jail reviews stated he was an “glorious employee” which had not come to the eye of jail employees. He’s thought of to be at low threat of violent recurrence and has been described in reviews as a shy one that suffers from nervousness.
There was additionally proof that O’Neill had a previous historical past with the deceased and was afraid of him, the decide stated.
For the misdemeanor assault inflicting grievous hurt to Mr. Shannon, the decide sentenced O’Neill to seven years, each sentences to be run concurrently and backdated to April 1, 2022, when O’Neill was first arrested.
At a sentencing listening to final month, Detective Sergeant Kevin O’Hagan advised prosecution barrister Lorcan Connolly BL that the defendant traveled from his house in Limerick to Shannon for St Patrick’s Day 2018. Coincidentally, the deceased and a bunch of buddies had additionally traveled from Limerick and after watching a rugby match in Eire, each teams ended up within the Shannon Knight nightclub.
The courtroom heard that the defendant and the deceased knew one another and shortly after O’Neill’s arrival there was an “altercation” involving pushing and shoving and an allegation of throwing a punch.
Tensions ran excessive afterward, the detective stated, and the defendant left the membership with one different particular person however returned about 55 minutes later. He later advised the garda that after leaving the membership he had taken a knife from a automobile and put it in his pocket to guard himself.
When he returned to the membership, there was one other incident caught on CCTV because the accused and the deceased met close to the dance flooring. “Phrases had been exchanged,” stated the sergeant, between Mr. Higgins and O’Neill, and “they got here virtually nose to nose. foot and prolonged palms in direction of Nathan.”
There was a struggle involving the defendant, Mr Shannon and Mr Higgins earlier than Mr Shannon fell to the ground and Mr Higgins separated and the safety guards intervened.
The struggle lasted 10 to 12 seconds, Det Sgt O’Hagan stated, and it later emerged that Mr. Higgins had suffered 5 stab wounds to the stomach and chest. The deadly wound penetrated his coronary heart whereas one other stab wound broken his kidney and contributed to his demise.
Mr Shannon had additionally been stabbed, however his wounds weren’t life threatening.
O’Neill left the nightclub and was discovered by Garda crouching within the undergrowth close by. He had scratches from the brambles he was hiding beneath and had suffered a reduce lip and a few bruising.
Mr Higgins didn’t initially notice he had been injured, however handed out and regardless of the efforts of employees, police and paramedics, he was pronounced useless a short while later. The knife utilized by O’Neill was discovered on the bottom close to the dance flooring.
Det Sgt O’Hagan stated following his arrest the accused was “upfront from the beginning” about how he acquired to the nightclub, what occurred and his historical past of interactions with the deceased. O’Neill advised Garda he suffered from nervousness and armed himself with a knife after the primary struggle “in case one thing else occurred”.
Det Sgt O’Hagan advised the courtroom O’Neill had earlier convictions for prison damages and for producing a hammer throughout a dispute with a safety guard at a shopping mall in Limerick on July 25, 2017. He was additionally convicted of threatened to kill the safety guard. He additionally has a conviction for possession of a knife.
The deceased’s mom, Sharon Higgins, stated her son was smitten by every part he did in life and had “massive objectives, an enormous coronary heart and head on his shoulders”.
She stated: “I used to be so proud to say that I used to be Jamie’s mom, she was an attractive particular person with a really massive coronary heart and a form hearted particular person. He was very understanding, he was form and he was a terrific listener.”
He liked being a father and his favourite time of yr was Christmas.
“He used to purchase me flowers and postcards,” she stated. “Now I am shopping for my son flowers.”
He stated he struggles on daily basis and his well being has deteriorated. He has panic assaults, feels choked and out of breath. “I do not know find out how to dwell and face on daily basis with out my stunning son, the best way he needed to die is so unfair.”
He stated his room stays intact, with all his medals and trophies he gained enjoying rugby, soccer and hurling. “I can not contact it as a result of I can not settle for that it is gone,” she stated.
Higgins’ companion Jade McNamara described him as “probably the most real, soft-hearted, giving particular person I’ve ever identified.” He was a proud father who liked his son and regarded ahead to all his milestones; seeing him stroll, his first haircut, taking communion and affirmation and his first time kicking a ball. They solely spent 13 months collectively as a household, she stated.
“Jamie was my finest buddy, the love of my life. Nothing might ever evaluate or come near him. We had been rarely aside, if he might he would have given me his coronary heart. When my finest buddy was dropped at us away I used to be numb.”
She stated she dismisses any emotions of happiness due to the guilt she feels that he is not there to share it. She’s going to by no means perceive why he was taken and he or she stated she would accept one final day collectively. “Nobody can take away our reminiscences, they’re hidden in a particular place in my coronary heart. How fortunate I’m to be liked by you.”
The deceased’s sister, Leanne, stated the demise of her loving, caring and type brother will hang-out her without end. She requested the courtroom to present her brother “the justice she deserves” and stated O’Neill had not killed only one particular person however the whole household.
An announcement from the daddy of the deceased, Liam Higgins, was learn by Det Sgt O’Hagan. He stated his son was a “implausible sportsman and a implausible particular person” who did not should die like him. The deceased’s youthful brother, Calvin Higgins, stated he did all of it with Jamie, whom he described as his finest buddy and function mannequin.
Mr Connolly, for the prosecution, advised the courtroom that the offense ought to fall into the upper culpability bracket and will due to this fact carry a preliminary sentence of between 10 and 15 years. The offense of inflicting critical hurt to Mr Shannon, he stated, ought to carry a preliminary sentence of as much as ten years.
Sergeant O’Hagan agreed with Alice Fawsitt SC for the protection that there was an allegation that Mr Higgins punched O’Neill that evening. Instantly previous to the stabbing, the detective agreed that O’Neill was shot within the face, restrained by Mr. Shannon and Mr. Higgins, and positioned in a headlock.
Ms Fawsitt advised the courtroom her shopper was 19 on the time of the stabbing and was described as a shy and mild-mannered younger man with a historical past of hysteria and melancholy. He has taken duty for his crime and has perception into his conduct and his empathy for the household of the deceased.
He reveals actual regret and disgrace, he stated, and does not seem to have a historical past of violence. Probation Providers take into account him to be at low threat of violent crime sooner or later.
He has the assist of his household and after his launch intends to coach to be a chef and has the “prospect of a steady life,” the lawyer stated.
He stated O’Neill accepts that carrying the knife and utilizing it in a struggle went “past what was regular or rational,” however requested the courtroom to contemplate how O’Neill would really feel when he was concerned. within the altercation together with his two victims.
In a letter written by the defendant, O’Neill stated he needed to “sincerely apologize to the household of the deceased for every part they went via. I need to apologize for what occurred that evening and have all the time accepted duty for it. I cannot I did. I did not imply to harm, however I did, and I give it some thought on daily basis.”
He stated he would always remember what he learn in sufferer affect statements written by Mr Higgins’ household and added that he was “sorry for making them really feel this fashion and for letting my household down and everybody who is aware of me.” .