Belfast Telegraph

Tyrone GAA footballer Sean Hackett given life sentence for shooting his father dead

The mentally disturbed teenager had planned to kill either one of his parents "because he wanted a guardian angel"

By Ashleigh McDonald

Self-confessed teenage killer Sean Hackett - who shot his 60-year-old father Aloysius 'Wishie' Hackett because he wanted him as his guardian angel - has been handed a life sentence and told he will serve a minimum of ten years before he is considered eligible for release.

Mr Justice Stephens told the 19-year-old former GAA footballing star, who always admitted shooting his father twice in the head in the driveway of their Aghindarrah Road family home in Augher, Tyrone, on January 4 last year, that he was deemed to present a "significant risk of serious harm to others".

The Dungannon Crown Court, sitting in Belfast's Laganside Courthouse, heard Hackett said he felt "powerful" and "excited" when he was shooting his father and that he "wasn't going to stop until he (Aloysius) was dead."

The Judge said that Mr Hackett didn't die immediately and that "his terror is not hard to imagine" in a fatal attack which was carried out after "considerable planning and preparation in advance" by his youngest child.

The Judge branded Hackett's belief that if he killed one of his parents they would look after him in heaven as "delusional", adding "on the contrary, things could not be worse."

He also spoke of Hackett's "egocentricity and narcissm" and revealed there was a risk the young man was developing schizophrenia.

Hackett will serve a minimum of 10 years before he is considered eligible for release by the Paroles Commission. He was handed a life sentence with a minimum sentence of 10 years on a charge of manslaughter, with a concurrent life sentence with a minimum term of four years for possessing the firearm and ammunition with intent.

Mr Justice Stephens also sentenced his 18-year-old "star-struck" friend Ronan Mulrine from Dunroe Road, Augher, to one year's detention which was suspended for two years after he admitted supplying his father's .22 Czech hunting rifle and ammuntion, unaware they would be used in the brutal killing.

Mulrine, said to have been "in awe" of the former Co Tyrone minors' captain, later told police he would have given and done anything for Hackett because he believed and trusted him when he said he needed the rifle to shoot rabbits, or "for a job".

Sentencing Mulrine, the Judge said that while he accepted "to some extend you were in awe of Sean Hackett", giving his friend the weapon and ammunition knowing he didn't have a relevant licence was wrong. The Judge also told the student that he accepted he didn't have any idea about Hackett's mental state or his "intention to kill one of other of his parents."

While Hackett showed little emotion during today's sentencing - as he has done throughout his trial last month - his distraught and doting mother Eilis and his siblings sat in the public galley behind him. As he was led from the dock, Eilis comforted her three children, who all broke down in tears.

Today's hearing was told that the court was provided with statements on behalf of Eilis and her children about the impact Mr Hackett's death has had on the family. Mr Justice Stephens said "no-one could fail to be moved by their heartfelt loss" and while they were aware there was something wrong mentally with Sean, there was "no sense of anger or grievance on their part."

At the end of the Dungannon trial last month the jury of six men and six women acquitted Hackett of the cold-blooded murder of his father "Wishie", just over two months after he attempted to throttle his mum with a length of electrical flex, after he'd broken up with his first and only girlfriend.

Instead the jury, following two and a half hours deliberation, convicted him of the lesser charge of manslaughter, by reason of 'diminished responsibility'.

They accepted the defence's case that at the moment he shot the father he professed to have loved, Hackett was a mentally disturbed deluded teen on the possible verge of schizophrenia.

They also accepted the defence contention that: "This is a very clear case of diminished responsibility... and a finding of manslaughter would be the right verdict, the just verdict, and proper verdict".

By the same token they rejected the prosecution case that he was not suffering from a recognised mental disorder, and that while: "Sean Hackett had a good life and a good family ... he was a dangerous man, because the smiling pleasant helpful nice guy underneath was a bad wicked planning manipulative killer and that is what he remains".

Hackett's trial had heard that after initially borrowing the hunting rifle, he trained himself how to use it, after practising with it. However, even on the very day of the shooting, Hackett was still undecided as to which of his parents was to die.

At one stage he had thought of shooting his mother as she passed his bedroom after taking a shower - but couldn't bring himself to do it.  He then decided he would shoot his father as he sat having his tea in the family kitchen but again he couldn't.

However, when his father, a former chairman of St Macartan's GAA, went to a club meeting, Hackett tried to contact friends, before putting his final plan into operation. He hid behind a wall, and lay like a sniper, for his father's return.

As Mr Hackett got out of his Citroen Xsara car, keys still in hand, his youngest son shot him in the back of the head.  He screamed "No", but as he fell to the ground his son had already re-loaded the rifle, and fired again.

He didn't know what hit him, and died not knowing his son was his killer. Hackett, for his part went and felt his father's hand, which was cold, so he said a prayer over him.  He later told his mother his father never saw him.

The court heard that when first questioned he told police there was "something was wrong at the house'', possibly a burglary, but later admitted: "I did it... I shot him".

Later in a prepared statement, he reported: "I was involved in an incident with reference to the death of my daddy whom I love very much .... I have been suffering from depression and was seeking medical attention at the time. That's all I have to say at this time.''

During the trial, described as one of the most extraordinary and complex criminal cases ever to come before the courts, the jury also heard a number of conflicting descriptions about the teenager, not least from his mother.

Although her son had tried to strangle her ten weeks earlier with an electrical flex, mother and son had lay together on a single bed in a neighbour's home after the shooting. He had asked to speak to her privately, and as they both cried, they "hugged and cuddled each other".

The mother of four, said her son was someone she was "very proud of .... a great boy", but from that day to this she has never asked him why he shot his father. All she had asked, the court heard, was had her husband seen him, he had replied "no".

Mrs Hackett, who could have easily ended up as her son's target that fateful night, said father and son were "almost like brothers'', and that: "We were the perfect family. Sean loved his dad and vice versa. Wishie loved him.''

The court had also heard from Tyrone GAA supremo Mickey Harte who described the teenager as "a very quite, unassuming, lovely young gentleman ....very warm and very caring, and anything 'cold and uncaring' .... "totally opposite to that description".

Mr Harte said he had his "eye on him" as a future senior county player and that Hackett, both as a club and county footballer had a "lot to look forward to".  Alluding to the fact he had already captained the county minors', Mr Harte explained that such positions were not passed out on a whim, and had to be earned.

However, despite this glowing accolade, Hackett had confided, he was thinking of ways of getting out of the game but realised he simply could not drop out of playing as it would raise too many questions, but that it was "good" whenever he would get a text saying, "there would be no training".

On other occasions, Hackett reported that he, "faked injury" to get out of training.  Although he went to the gym to do some training, it was not long before he showered and went off home.

The jury also heard conflicting evidence from two leading consultants, one a psychologist, called by the defence, the other a psychiatrist, engaged by the prosecution.  While both agreed Hackett had been acting rationally, and logically, and had displayed episodes of self-control, they disagreed about his state of mind at the time of the shooting.

Psychiatrist Dr Fred Browne said Hackett was suffering from 'an adjustment disorder' brought on by the break-up with his girlfriend, but that could in no way excuse or explain  his homicidal tendencies and the feeling of power, excitement and control he got from thoughts of killing a parent.

The jury accepted the findings of forensic clinical psychologist Dr Philip Pollock who said he was suffering from a recognised mental condition. Dr Pollock said he'd found while Hackett knew his plans to kill either of his parents was both highly illegal and morally wrong, he was nevertheless driven to commit the slaughter as a solution to his unhappiness and teenage problems.

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