Belfast Telegraph

Teenager admits killing pensioner to get cash for rent

By Adrian Rutherford

A 17-year-old youth who strangled a partially-blind Co Tyrone pensioner to death for money to pay his rent pleaded guilty to his manslaughter on the day a murder trial was due to start.

The teenager admitted killing Francis O’Neill, who was found dead at his flat over the Easter weekend last year.

Mr O’Neill, a 78-year-old former psychiatric nurse, had been stabbed and strangled.

The youth – who cannot be identified because of his age – had previously been charged with the pensioner’s murder.

But his trial collapsed in June, two days before it was due to finish, because of legal issues.

A new trial was expected to start at Omagh Crown Court yesterday morning.

However, shortly before the case was due to open, defence QC John McCrudden asked for the charge to be put to the youth again.

Describing it as “a very unusual and exceptional case”, he said complex legal matters had been under discussion and reviewed by the prosecution and defence.

When the murder charge was put to the youth he replied: “Not guilty, but guilty of manslaughter.”

Prosecution QC Liam McCollum said the plea was acceptable.

The youth, who will turn 18 in a few weeks, was released on continuing bail and will be sentenced next month following a special request from his defence team.

Belfast Telegraph


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