Belfast Telegraph

Lurgan man who bludgeoned puppy to death with hammer jailed

Kyle Keegan outside court on a previous occasion.
Kyle Keegan outside court on a previous occasion.

By Paul Higgins

A Northern Ireland man who claims to be an animal lover, but who bludgeoned an 11-week-old puppy to death with a hammer while high on a cocktail of drink and drugs was jailed for 15 months on Wednesday.

Ordering 24-year-old Kyle Keegan to spend the same period under supervised licence conditions, Craigavon Crown Court Judge Neil Rafferty said his self-proclamations of being an animal lover “doesn’t sit easily with what he has pleaded guilty to".

Imposing a 30 year prohibition on Keegan owning any animal, the judge told the puppy killer the sentence must not just punish him but also “deter other young men or other offenders from dealing with animals in this violent and vile and savage manner".

He told Keegan: "it is difficult to imagine how violence could be any more gratuitous than one method out to an 11 week old, small breed puppy by the use we know of a claw hammer to stove it’s skull in".

“Mr Keegan your actions towards this small and defenceless animal were barbaric. There is little that can be said that would express the horror of this small dogs death at your hands," he said.

A day before he was due to go on trial last month Keegan, from Gilpins Manor, finally confessed to causing unnecessary suffering to Sparky, a cross breed Chihuahua puppy, on 3 February last year.

A post mortem examination revealed that Keegan has used a claw hammer to strike “to or three blows” to his head and shoulder, causing multiple skull fractures and his brain to bleed into his lungs.

Opening the Crown case, prosecuting counsel Nicola Auret outlined how Sparky’s body lay undiscovered in a bin, wrapped in a plastic bag, for two days before owner Ellen Hoy found him having been sent a tip off that “the dog was dead".

Ms Hoy, said the lawyer, had a party at her home on Ailsbury Park that weekend and she fed Sparky that Saturday morning before going to her father’s house later on, leaving Sparky in his crate in the front hallway.

A “really drunk” Keegan and a “number of other young people” had been at the party, said Ms Auret, adding that when Ms Hoy came home, Sparky was gone.

Sparky the puppy
Sparky the puppy

“She was told that he had got out,” the lawyer told the court, leading her to search the area and put out an appeal on Facebook.

Ms Hoy again searched for Sparky the following day, Sunday 4 February, but received text messages that evening “that the dog was dead and in the bin.”

“It appeared that the text messages had circulated on social media,” said Ms Auret who described how Ms Hoy looked in bins but couldn’t see anything as it was too dark.

The following morning, she found her dog in a bin wrapped in a plastic bag.

Ms Auret told the court a hammer and a t-shirt, both spattered with blood, were found beside the washing machine in Ms Hoy’s home and there was also spots of blood in the hallway where Sparky’s crate was.

Wanting to find out who killed her dog, Ms Hoy asked Keegan to come to her house and she asked him if he had killed Sparky but he claimed “I was drunk - I can’t remember.”

She showed Keegan his blood spattered top but he told her “he didn’t know how the blood got on it.”

Swabs from the hammer, the top and from the blood spattered wall were sent for forensic analysis, including some to Scotland and tests done in Northern Ireland which had never been conducted before, and the results provided “extremely strong support that the DNA had come from the dog.”

A mixed DNA profile was uncovered on the shaft of the hammer and Ms Auret said “the defendant could not be excluded from the mix DNA profile".

The pattern of blood stains on the hammer showed it “had come into contact with a source of wet blood” while the person wearing the t-shirt “had been close to a source of projected blood”.

Arrested and interviewed, Keegan admitted the top was his and that he was unlikely to have let anyone else wear it but claimed he had “no memory of anything which occurred over the weekend".

“The police asked him if he had bludgeoned the dog to death,” said Ms Auret, adding that Keegan replied: “I don’t know, I don’t know, I can’t remember."

“This is a circumstantial case but we say it clearly pointed to the pup having been hit to the head with a hammer, blood was on it and blood was on the top that the defendant had worn,” said the lawyer who continued there was “blood on the wall in the hall where the fatal blows were struck and the defendants DNA was part of a mixed DNA profile on the hammer".

Turning to aggravating features, she submitted the fact that Keegan had used a weapon, that he was intoxicated and the “gratuitous violence” he used all aggravated the offence while in mitigation, he had a limited record and had admitted his guilt.

Defence counsel Barry McKenna conceded at the very start of his plea in mitigation that “it is difficult to say that this case is anything other than appalling.”

“It is difficult to rationalise the defendants conduct when he has displayed no evidence…of violent tendencies,” said the lawyer adding that “it is completely inexplicable when one considers that the defendant himself describes himself as an animal lover“.

The judge interjected however “I have to say having read the papers and read the pre-sentence report that doesn’t sit easily with what he pleaded guilty to".

Mr McKenna commented that ”it’s frightening and horrifying both to the defendant himself and I have no doubt your honour, the depths to which a person can plunge while under the influence of very substantial amounts of alcohol and drugs....the defendant simply cannot explain it”.

He argued that while Keegan “is the only person before the court today....if the additional evidence is correct there were other persons involved who are not before the court today,” but the judge told him “I’m trying to fathom what the mitigation is what”.

He highlighted that when the incident was first reported, it had been alleged that Sparky may have been put into a microwave but it now transpired “that’s factually incorrect”.

Keegan, said the lawyer, had a good work record but “there’s little doubt that he did party on a very substantial basis until matters came to a head, catastrophically, in this case,” adding that while a jail sentence “is inevitable,” probation help with his drug and drink abuse “would seem entirely appropriate”.

“He is deeply sorry - it’s completely out of character,” declared Mr McKenna.

Jailing Keegan, Judge Rafferty said the fact that he had no memory of the incident, coupled with his lack of criminal convictions for violence caused him “very grave concerns” given the lack of explanation for the attack.

“Quite frankly, your actions towards this pup were vile, disgusting and savage,” declared the judge, telling Keegan it would be “absolutely patently clear to anyone such an animal would be entirely defenceless”.

While he barred Keegan from owning any animal for 30 years, he told the puppy killer he could apply to a court to have that varied after 20 years.

He also warned him that a breach of any of his licence conditions “will result in you being returned to prison.”

“Do you understand,” asked the judge and when Keegan replied “yes,” he ordered the prison staff “take him into custody".

Belfast Telegraph Digital


From Belfast Telegraph