Belfast Telegraph

Hackett family 'lost dad and son day GAA star shot father'

By Adrian Rutherford

The family of a former Tyrone GAA star who shot his father dead have described the case as a double tragedy which robbed them of a father and a son on the same night.

The comments came ahead of sentencing in the Sean Hackett manslaughter case.

Hackett, a former captain of the Tyrone Minor team, killed his father Aloysius with a high-velocity rifle borrowed from a friend in January 2013.

Last month a jury unanimously cleared the 19-year-old of murder but convicted him of the lesser offence of manslaughter on the basis of diminished responsibility.

Yesterday it emerged that Tyrone boss Mickey Harte is among 21 people to supply character references for the self-confessed killer.

During a sentencing hearing in Belfast, a prosecution lawyer argued that Hackett was a dangerous individual who posed a significant risk of harm.

The claim from Ciaran Murphy QC came as a judge heard submissions from prosecution and defence teams ahead of sentencing.

However, defence QC Jim Gallagher stressed Hackett's "impeccable character" before he carried out the killing.

Hackett shot his 60-year-old father, a former chairman of Augher St Macartan's GAA club, twice in the head with the .22 Czech hunting rifle borrowed from his friend, Ronan Mulrine.

He admitted carrying out the fatal shooting and intending to kill his father, but always denied murder.

The central issue in the case was Hackett's mental state, and the trial had heard how the teenager became depressed after splitting with his girlfriend.

He became fixated on the idea that killing one of his parents would solve whatever issues he was facing at the time.

Throughout the case, family members have stood by him, and his mother Eilish and siblings Kevin, Conor and Aileen watched from the public gallery at Laganside courthouse during yesterday's hearing.

At one stage Mr Gallagher QC referred to a victim impact statement prepared by family members in which they speak of the devastation caused by the killing.

"As they put it rather poignantly, it's been a double tragedy for the Hackett family in which, on the same night, they lost a father and a son at the same time," Mr Gallagher said.

Earlier, Mr Murphy QC said it was "manifestly evident" from the statements that it had been a devastating event in the family's life.

Mr Murphy said it was a case where Hackett was primarily culpable, describing Aloysius Hackett as a vulnerable victim.

He said Hackett's culpability was aggravated by the fact he planned the killing and obtained and armed himself with a gun and ammunition.

The prosecution lawyer said the court was "inevitably led" to the fact that Hackett was a dangerous individual, claiming the teenager had shown "sophistication and planning" in intending to kill his father rather than acting in spontaneity.

"In all these circumstances we say the court is compelled to consider that he is dangerous," Mr Murphy said.

However, Mr Gallagher said that any risk posed by Hackett could be reduced by continued close evaluation of his mental state.

He referred to Hackett's previously "impeccable character", adding that he has been "a model prisoner" while in custody at Hydebank Young Offenders centre.

Mr Justice Stephens reserved sentencing until after the Easter recess.

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