Belfast Telegraph

Murder accused tried to strangle his mother only weeks before he killed father, trial told

BY ADRIAN RUTHERFORD

The mother of a Tyrone GAA player broke down in tears as she described how he tried to strangle her weeks before he shot his father dead.

Eilish Hackett wept as she recalled an incident at the family home in October 2012 when her son threw a lead around her neck.

He said he wanted her to go to Heaven, she told the court.

The trial at Dungannon Crown Court has heard Sean Hackett admits shooting dead his father Aloysius on January 4 last year.

He also accepts that he intended to kill his 60-year-old father.

However, the 19-year-old – a former captain of the county's Minor team – denies murder and two counts of possessing a firearm and ammunition with intent to endanger life.

Giving evidence yesterday, Mrs Hackett recalled a Sunday afternoon in late October 2012 when her son asked her to come to the garage.

"To give peace I went out," she said.

Mrs Hackett recalled her son pointing at a leak. "I was reaching over and I then felt this arm on me and he pulled me close and he sobbed and he sobbed and he sobbed," she added.

"I said: 'What's wrong Sean? Tell me what's wrong'."

Her son told her he had broken up with his girlfriend, who he had been dating since July 2011. She said she told her son he would find someone else, but he replied: "I don't want anybody else."

She added: "I turned to go out of the door and I felt a lead just being thrown over my neck."

Mrs Hackett said she got free and ran out of the garage. She said Sean shouted "No, I didn't mean it, I didn't mean it".

"I said to him: 'Yes, you did mean it'."

Mrs Hackett was asked by defence counsel Jim Gallagher QC if she believed her son coaxed her into the garage in a bid to kill her.

She replied: "He said I'd be in Heaven to look after him, that I could look after him better there with his grandad.

"Sean was exceptionally close to his grandad."

Mrs Hackett said there was "no reason at all" why her son would want to kill her.

"I thought there was something seriously wrong. We were very, very concerned. We didn't know what we were dealing with." The following day they made an appointment with their local GP.

Mrs Hackett added: "He told the doctor the same thing about me being in Heaven and looking after him. I said: 'I don't want to go to Heaven'."

The doctor recommended her son see a counsellor.

Prosecuting counsel Ciaran Murphy QC asked Mrs Hackett: "Have you ever asked him straight out the reason why he killed your husband?"

She replied: "No."

The trial also heard from another relative.

Seamus Daly – a brother-in-law of Aloysius Hackett – recalled seeing Sean at a neighbour's house in the hours after the shooting.

"He looked very pale and agitated," Mr Daly recalled. "After a period of time he came to me and said 'I want to speak to you'."

He recalled how Hackett told him he had car keys – which police were searching for – in his pocket.

Asked why he didn't tell police, Hackett told his uncle: "I'm in bother."

Mr Daly recalled Hackett asking would anyone except the police find out what had happened.

"He seemed to be in a different place from reality," he added.

The case continues.

Harrowing day in court for wife and mum left bereft

Sipping nervously at a glass of water, Eilish Hackett leaned forward in the chair and prepared to revisit the most harrowing night of her life.

As the eyes of a packed court number one fell on her, she took a deep breath.

Then, in a soft voice which filled the hushed room, she began an agonising 70-minute journey through 10 weeks that shattered the lives of her once perfect family.

It was a harrowing experience for a woman who finds herself torn between a maelstrom of emotions. A devoted wife and mother, she must shoulder the burden of watching the son she adores stand trial for the murder of the man she loved.

Through gentle probing from defence barrister Jim Gallagher QC, Mrs Hackett painted a picture of normal family life.

Her son Sean was, she said, a GAA-mad teenager who was at the centre of the household.

"He was a good boy, he never gave us any bother at all in his 18 years," she told the jury.

She described Sean's talents and achievements on the GAA pitch.

It was a shared interest in Gaelic football which, she continued, helped forge the close bond between Sean and his father Aloysius.

The barrister's questions then moved to autumn 2012, with Mrs Hackett describing how Sean's behaviour changed.

He didn't seem interested in football, she explained, and had become quiet and withdrawn.

It seemed to coincide with the break-up of a relationship with his girlfriend, who he was very close to, she added.

Mr Gallagher turned to events on a Sunday in late October.

Mrs Hackett described how her son called her to the garage to look at a leaking tumble-dryer. She told the court how Sean put his arm around her and pulled her tight.

"He sobbed and he sobbed and he sobbed," she said.

Sean told her the relationship with his girlfriend was over.

Struggling to keep her emotions under control, Mrs Hackett described how, as she turned to leave, she felt a lead being thrown around her neck.

"Sean said, 'No, I didn't mean it, I didn't mean it'," she recalled. "I said, 'Yes, you did mean it'."

Her son told her he hoped she would always be proud of him.

Fighting back tears, Mrs Hackett recalled replying: "I'll always be proud of you." The questioning then moved to the night of January 4, 2013.

Mrs Hackett explained she was going to Omagh for a meal with friends.

However, later that evening she received a call saying that "something dreadful" had happened at home.

As she arrived at a neighbour's house, Sean was being spoken to by a detective before being arrested for the murder of his father.

It was agreed she could have five minutes with him before he was taken into custody.

Tears again flowed as she recalled: "There was a single bed in the corner and the two of us lay down and hugged and cuddled each other. We were both crying."

Sitting feet away in the dock, flanked by two prison officers, Sean Hackett also broke down in tears.

Seeing the distress of Mrs Hackett, trial judge Mr Justice Stephens ordered a short break.

When the court resumed she was asked about the day of her husband's funeral.

She revealed how Sean, who was given temporary bail to attend the service, wrote a letter which was read at the graveside.

Taking a brown envelope from Mr Gallagher, she unfolded two A4 sheets and read it out. Handwritten by her son, it was addressed "to my special daddy". The note described Aloysius as "a great dad".

In her closing remarks, she said there was no explanation for her son's actions.

"We were the perfect family," she said.

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