Belfast Telegraph

We were not out to kill paedophile Thomas O'Hare who abused me, brother tells jury

By Paul Higgins

A man accused of murdering the paedophile who abused him as a child has told a court he had no intention of killing him.

An emotional Stephen Smith told an Armagh Crown Court jury that the revelation he was abused by Thomas O'Hare had been "just a disaster" for his family.

On numerous occasions during his evidence, Smith's voice faltered with emotion while his three brothers and co-accused sat in the dock just a few feet away, heads bowed. The eldest, Martin Smith, wiped tears away.

The four brothers deny the murders of Thomas O'Hare and Lisa McClatchey in November 2006, 16 years after O'Hare abused Stephen Smith and two other boys. They also deny arson with intent to endanger life.

It is the Crown case that the four Smith brothers – Martin (40), Niall (38), Christopher (33) and Stephen (31) – launched their attack in revenge for the sexual abuse Thomas perpetrated on Stephen Smith in the late 80s and early 90s.

Seven years ago this month, Thomas O'Hare (33), and his girlfriend Lisa (21), were attacked and burned after men burst into O'Hare's home on Foley Road near Tassagh village, attacked Thomas and then poured petrol all over the house.

Within days, they both succumbed to multiple organ failure.

Yesterday Stephen Smith claimed that in summer 2006 he spotted his abuser driving in and out of Mourneview estate, Lurgan, where the Smith family lived.

He told his defence QC John Kearney he and his brothers began to form a loose plan to force O'Hare out of the area, and denied that killing O'Hare had ever formed any part of their plot.

He told the jury that he was convinced that O'Hare would not be at the house that night. But O'Hare was there and fought back.

He told how he and Christopher Smith fought O'Hare in the kitchen, admitting he punched him twice in the face causing all three to fall to the floor.

O'Hare fled to the living room. It was at that point he noticed he was covered in petrol and then saw Lisa McClatchey.

He said: "I thought perhaps she was Thomas O'Hare's daughter or niece – she looked so young. I asked 'who are you?', but she stood there."

He continued: "Just as I put my hand on the handle (of the front door) the whole place exploded. It wasn't like a loud bang, more like a big humming noise. It blew the three of us – Christopher, Lisa and me – off our feet. You couldn't say it came from any direction; it was just the air everywhere turned to fire."

Mr Kearney asked how he now felt about what had happened, and he said: "It should never, never have happened. I know the O'Hare family. This should never have happened, especially, especially to Lisa McClatchey. She was an innocent wee girl."

Stephen Smith described how Lisa had asked him what was going to happen.

He said he told her not to worry, saying: "We're going to burn this house down. We don't want him living in this area. Nothing's going to happen to you."

Prosecuting QC Toby Hedworth put to him that his version of events was "one that you and your brothers have stitched together to try and explain as much of the prosecution evidence as possible".

Stephen Smith, however, insisted his version of events was true.

Mr Hedworth suggested that burning the house would not have prevented him from coming to Mourneview Park, but Stephen Smith claimed: "I think he would've got the message."

Smith added: "There's not a hope of me getting involved in killing anybody. He done what he done but he didn't deserve to die."

The trial continues.

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