Belfast Telegraph

Family's tears as former Tyrone GAA star Sean Hackett jailed for shooting father

By Adrian Rutherford

The family of a former Tyrone GAA star who shot dead his father broke down in tears yesterday after he was jailed for at least 10 years.

A judge told Sean Hackett he was a dangerous individual who posed a significant risk of serious harm to others.

The 19-year-old was handed a life sentence, and must serve 10 years before he is considered for release.

As the teenager was led away, his mother and siblings wept in the public gallery.

Hackett, a former captain of the Tyrone minor team, shot dead his father, Aloysius, outside the family home near Augher in January 2013.

Last month a jury unanimously cleared the teenager of murder but convicted him of the lesser offence of manslaughter on the basis of diminished responsibility.

The case had centred on the issue of Hackett's mental state when he killed his 60-year-old father with the high-velocity hunting rifle borrowed from his friend, Ronan Mulrine.

Yesterday, Mulrine, of Dunroe Road near Augher, was given a one-year custody sentence, suspended for two years, having earlier pleaded guilty to two counts of possessing a firearm in suspicious circumstances.

The Hackett case was described as one of the most extraordinary ever to come before the courts.

Hackett had always admitted shooting his father twice in the head. However, despite also confessing that he intended to kill his father, he denied murder.

His defence team argued that Hackett was mentally disturbed and on the verge of possible schizophrenia at the time. The trial heard how Hackett believed killing one of his parents would provide him with a "guardian" in heaven or the "ultimate distraction" from the turmoil he was facing.

Passing sentence yesterday, Mr Justice Stephens branded Hackett's belief "delusional", adding: "On the contrary, things could not be worse".

Hackett had borrowed the rifle from Mulrine on the pretext of shooting rabbits. It was accepted Mulrine did not know of his intentions to harm anyone.

The judge said Hackett carried out the killing after "considerable planning and preparation in advance", noting that he practised with the gun beforehand.

The killer's father had been returning from a GAA meeting when he was killed on the night of January 4 last year.

Hackett fired three shots, two of which hit his father in the head.

The judge said Mr Hackett did not die immediately, adding that "his terror is not hard to imagine".

Mr Justice Stephens noted several aggravating factors, including the planning, the victim's vulnerability, the unprovoked nature of the attack and Sean Hackett's "indifference" to the killing.

The judge also said Hackett posed a "significant risk of serious harm to others" and would remain dangerous for an unpredictable period of time. However, he referred to moving statements provided by family members.

No-one, he said, could fail to be moved by their "heartfelt loss".

"They all stated they knew something was mentally wrong. There is no sense of anger or grievance on their part," he added.

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