Three face sentencing over killing at nightclub

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The Independent Online

Three former pupils of one of Ireland's elite schools face sentencing today, having been convicted over the death of a teenager after a marathon trial which has fascinated and appalled the country.

Three former pupils of one of Ireland's elite schools face sentencing today, having been convicted over the death of a teenager after a marathon trial which has fascinated and appalled the country.

Brian Murphy, 18, died four years ago after he was repeatedly kicked in an alcohol-fuelled fight outside a Dublin nightclub where, like many nightclubs, there was a cheap drink promotion. His three assailants are from well-off families and Ireland has embarked on a frenzy of soul-searching that has focused on how such youth could have become embroiled in a lethal brawl.

The trial generated so much tension and distress that several of the jurors who brought in the verdicts were among those in tears in the courtroom. The court also heard an intensely moving statement from Mr Murphy's mother.

The three convicted men attended Blackrock College, a prestigious south Dublin fee-paying school whose boys are regarded as privileged and destined for the upper echelons of Irish life. The college's old boys include the former Irish president Eamon de Valera, the musician Bob Geldof and the international rugby star Brian O'Driscoll.

Sentences will be handed down today on the three men, who are in their early twenties. Dermot Laide was found guilty of manslaughter and violent disorder, while Sean Mackey and Desmond Ryan were convicted of violent disorder. A fourth defendant was cleared on all charges.

The incident occurred in 2000 after a large number of young people emerged from a fashionable Dublin nightclub in the early hours. Most of those involved had consumed large amounts of alcohol. The alcohol was unusually cheap due to a drinks promotion in the club.

Outside the nightclub there was some good-natured horseplay, but pushing and shoving developed and punches were thrown. There were suggestions of inter-school rivalries and of possible jealousy over a girl.

Mr Murphy was knocked to the ground. He was then repeatedly kicked. One woman said those around him were "behaving like animals". The incident lasted five minutes. Although he was on the ground for less than a minute, Mr Murphy sustained severe and fatal facial injuries.

Evidence was heard that he had thrown a punch, though the prosecution said he had been isolated and outnumbered by a gang of youths who subjected him to a "short and sustained" assault.

One of those convicted was described as holding the youth with his left hand and punching him with his right, delivering two "strong and forceful" punches. He was described as "giving it his all". The defendant told police: "I gave him two good belts. I have nothing more to say." Another assailant was said to have run into the affray with a "flying kick", then run off calling out: "This is great craic."

One of the more than 100 witnesses called during the case testified: "It was like a wave of feet kicking him. The kicking was overboard."

The 32-day trial was attended by Mr Murphy's parents, whose faces radiated grief and pain, and by family and friends of the defendants.

Mr Murphy's mother, Mary, made a 30-minute statement to the court after handing the judge photographs of her dead son. She said: "Where is my baby in all of this? I can't find him. He's lost, I'm lost. Where is my pride and joy, my full-of-confidence child, my crazy, exuberant, full-of-cheer, larger-than-life child - my naive, far-from-perfect child who did some silly things and some fabulous things."

The Irish media provided blanket coverage of the case, leading the judge to order curbs. A defence barrister complained that "an atmosphere almost like a frenzy has been whipped up by the press and broadcast media concerning this particular case". Another said his client had been pilloried and subjected to vilification, which had caused his family great suffering. A third said the publicity meant his client would always be well-known and associated with the death, adding: "It is very doubtful if he can walk down any street in Ireland and not be identified as one of the malefactors in this affray."

Mrs Murphy complained that the message from the media was that the tragedy of her family was comparable to the situation of those charged. She said she had felt under attack. One newspaper reported: "A terrible price is being paid for five minutes of mindless, alcohol-fuelled violence."

Blackrock College emphasises rugby and has won the Senior Cup more than any other school. Two of those charged were members of its victorious 1999 team, the school yearbook describing one of them as possessing "physical strength and abrasiveness, most noticeably in the scrum".