Northern Ireland

Tassagh: Smith brothers guilty of double manslaughter

Smith brothers
Image caption Clockwise from top left: Niall, Martin, Stephen and Christopher Smith

Four brothers have been found guilty of the manslaughter of a couple seven years ago, but cleared of their murder.

Niall, Martin, Christopher and Stephen Smith killed 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.

Mr O'Hare had sexually abused one of the brothers years before.

They claimed their intention had been restricted to burning the house in a bid to force Mr O'Hare from the area.

The Smith brothers 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.

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.

An hour after the fatal fire, four men appeared at a hospital across the Irish border in County Louth with critical burns and were later transferred for specialist treatment in Dublin.

Extradited from Australia

Martin Smith, 41, was arrested by Irish police in Dundalk while Niall Smith, 38, was detained in Dublin.

He had been put into an induced coma for over two weeks and told the court during the trial he was devastated when he woke up to learn that the couple had died.

Christopher Smith, 33, was arrested in England while Stephen Smith, 31, was extradited from Sydney, Australia.

The jury retired to consider its verdict at noon on Monday and delivered it at about 15:30 GMT on Tuesday.

Before it was brought back, the judge at Armagh Crown Court warned those in the gallery that he did not want any emotional outbursts.

He said: "I do not want any scenes in the court. Please remember we are here because two people died.

"The families of those two people are present. There will be no victories."

Calling for pre-sentence reports after the verdicts, the judge said the process normally took six weeks but was likely to be longer because of Christmas.

"We will arrange a date for sentencing when the courts are available," he said.

Image caption The burnt-out remains of the house in County Armagh where the couple were killed

Speaking outside the court after the verdicts were read out, the Smith brothers' mother Molly said: "I'm glad it's over. I hope it brings peace to the three families."

A spokesman for the Police Service of Northern Ireland said: "Police acknowledge the verdicts reached by the jury in this case.

"We acknowledge them first and foremost for Lisa McClatchey and Thomas O'Hare and for their two families who were robbed of their loved ones in truly horrendous circumstances.

"But we also acknowledge them on behalf of the detectives from the Serious Crime Branch who began this investigation more than seven years ago and along with the Public Prosecution Service persevered to bring the four Smith brothers from the Republic (of Ireland), England and Australia to face a court in Northern Ireland and answer for their crimes.

"No-one has the right to take the law into their own hands, regardless of any perceived threat, provocation or injustice."

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