'Macabre murder of a defenceless young boy'
Published 25/04/2008 | 00:00
The father of murdered Londonderry teenager Gerald O'Hagan yesterday spoke of his family's two years of hell before their son's evil killer was finally put behind bars.
Paul James Morrin (43) was yesterday jailed for life at Derry Crown Court sitting in Coleraine after he was found guilty of murdering the 19-year-old at a flat in Galliagh Park on February 3, 2006. He will serve at least 20 years of his life term without remission.
Setting the tariff, one of the highest ever for murder in Northern Ireland, Judge Seamus Treacy described Morrin, as "a dangerous, devious and cruel little man who committed, without remorse, a chilling and macabre murder of a defenceless young boy".
Morrin, a process operator with Seagate in Derry, stabbed Gerald Martin O'Hagan 14 times in the back and once in the neck, severing the jugular vein, just hours after they had been drinking to celebrate Gerald's 19th birthday.
The court heard that Morrin then smoked over Gerald's body and took a photograph on his mobile phone.
Patrick O'Hagan said he was satisfied with the sentence handed down to Morrin, but added that since the day his youngest son was murdered, his family's world has been turned into a living nightmare, made worse by the delays in bringing his killer to justice.
He said: "We are relieved it's over and that he got a decent sentence. It has been an absolute nightmare. There have been delays, adjournments; we have been in and out of court. It has all been very hurtful and painful. But everybody from the police to the Prosecution Service, the judge and the jury has stuck it out to get the right result."
Mr O'Hagan said that he, his wife Geraldine and their remaining six children were still trying to come to terms with what happened.
"When Gerald died our family lives just completely changed," Mr O'Hagan said. "Every birthday, every Christmas is completely different. It will never be the same again; the sadness is always there. We always end up talking about him, what he would say."
Recalling his son, he added: "He was a funny guy, very funny but he was also very serious about his family, his nieces and nephews, and he was determined to get himself into full-time employment. He was just starting to become a man."
Gerald was murdered just two streets away from where he lived with his parents in Moss Park.
"He had been sitting chatting to his mother that night," his father said. "He went back to the flat to get his mobile phone. It was only across the street from his sister's house at the time. She has moved since.
"Everybody thought he had gone up to his bed, and then the next day..."
Mr O'Hagan said that because Morrin had repeatedly denied the murder charge they were still in the dark about the last hours of their son's life.
"We still have questions and we are always wondering what happened. If he had just come clean it could have saved us two years, two months and 22 days of living hell.
"We will now be trying to focus on getting everybody else and their families to move on with their lives and that's what me and his mother will be focusing on."
The jury rejected Morrin's defence that someone else had committed the murder in his flat or, if he had stabbed his friend, he had done so while sleepwalking.
Judge Treacy dismissed both propositions as "a complete charade" and said that Morrin showed no remorse.
"As appears from the nature and distribution of the wounds the attack by the defendant on this vulnerable and incapacitated young boy was chilling, sustained, ferocious and unexplained.
"The taking of what might have been a trophy photograph when smoking over the deceased's body are not indicative of remorse but of a chilling disregard perhaps even a sick pride in what he had done," he added.
In a letter submitted to the Judge on behalf of his family, Mr O'Hagan wrote: "I know Geraldine and I will die broken hearted. There is no end to this kind of pain."