A thirty-three year-old Sligo man was this week sentenced to 13 years imprisonment, after appearing at Roscommon Circuit Court for sentencing after pleading guilty to the manslaughter of a five-year old girl in Boyle last October.
As he was escorted from Roscommon courthouse to the waiting prison van, 33 year-old John Lynch of Church View Boyle, walked with his head bowed as a crowd of up to thirty had gathered.
Lynch was beginning a journey that will see him incarcerated for thirteen years after being sentenced by Judge Tony Hunt, after he was found guilty of the manslaughter of Mari Connolly. He also received two eight years sentences for arson with intent to cause harm and assault causing harm to Richard Connolly, with all sentences to run concurrently.
In his summing up before passing down sentence Judge Hunt stated he was not in a position to impose the maximum sentence or an 18-year sentence due to the mitigating circumstances in the case.
He noted Lynch’s guilty plea and his expression of remorse, which he described as of little comfort to the Keane and Connolly families. He said that in all of his years on the bench across the country he had not witnessed circumstances that had arisen in this case.
He noted both Lynch’s plea of guilty and his expression of remorse but added that this was of little comfort to the grieving families. He added the enormity of Lynch’s action must have severe consequences and he (Judge Hunt), could not flush from his mind the consequences of Lynch’s actions.
Judge Hunt said he didn’t accept Lynch’s claim he didn’t know that there was anyone in the house. He added the arson was calculated to cause harm to Mari’s uncle with whom he had a row. The Judge said Lynch showed recklessness to the highest order and that his actions had horrific consequences.
Judge Hunt said a little girl had died in horrifying circumstances and the depths of terror of her final moments defy imagination.
After sentence was passed a member of the public called out: ‘Murderer,’ and ‘Devil,’ as Lynch was being escorted to the prisoner’s chambers. As he was being escorted to the prison van a young woman called out: ‘You are going to rot you scumbag,’ while another cried out: ‘ You are protected now, but you will have none in prison.’
Relations and friends of the Connolly and Keane families wore white t-shirts with a heart shaped photo of the five year-old victim and her hero the cartoon character Dora the explorer.
Family members hugged a tearful Teresa Keane on the steps of the courthouse a short time after the verdict was announced.
“If he (John Lynch) has stopped for just one second and looked around he would have seen the toys and the three (school) uniforms that were left on the kitchen table. It was a family home as the Judge had said it had furniture in it and if he had taken the time to look up at the walls he would have seen the photographs of the kids,” she said.
Ms Keane spoke of how difficult it was to sit across a courtroom from the man who had admitted starting the fire that claimed the life of her daughter.
“It was horrible having to see him knowing that he is the reason Mari is where she is today for absolutely no reason and how he went in and could have killed four of them, but he never considered that. Mari is where she is today because of him and his jealous rage.”
Teresa Keane added that he had no consideration for Richard or the three girls and at the end of the day no matter how often he says sorry for what he had done, it will never bring Mari. “For all of that I will never ever forgive him.
“We didn’t expect him to get the sentence that he got but I am delighted with it. Judge Hunt and the Gardai in Boyle and people we didn’t even know from around the country have stuck with us since it happened and are still with us now. To all of those people for what they have done I would like to say thanks.”
The girl’s father Richard Connolly is still dealing with the injuries he incurred after falling onto concrete steps as he attempted to drag his daughters to safety. He had evacuated the girls on to a roof but fell and was seriously injured.
“There will never be a closure, never. May she (Mari), rest in peace from today on and let him (John Lynch) do his sentence and that’s it,” he said.
“They (the girls) speak to Teresa and myself about her (Mari). They have five years of memories since they were older that her. I know they are only seven and six but they are old enough to know what was going on.”
Carrying a walking stick he added: “I am coming on but I will never be as right as I used to be. I will never he active again or to do things that I used to do.”
Teresa Keane summed up the events of that Sunday night in October: “He didn’t care, he just lit that fire and walked out. Mari died, Richard was hurt and the two girls were scarred for life. I will never understand why he done it.
“The last time I saw her (Mari), was at 9.40 on Sunday. It is torture to be without her. The kids ask every day about her. I have always said that I will never know what Richard, Lauren and Naomi went through that night and I can never tell the girls that this or that didn’t happen, because they are the ones that can tell me what happened that night. Lauren and Naomi are the bravest of girls.
Even in the hospital on the morning after it happened, what concerned Lauren was that Richard would be okay as she continued to ask the doctor to make sure her Daddy was okay up in the bed.”
Teresa Keane had been in hospital at the time of the fire and recalled the events as they unfolded.
“I will never understand what they went through and I will always be there for them. The morning that I got the phone call from Richard’s sister Orla, it didn’t seem to be happening and then Lauren and Naomi arrived in and all through the night I had the hope that she (Mari) was there. Then in the morning I called my sister Christine in the hope that she would tell me everything was all right but then Gerry Barry came on the phone and told me they had found her.
“The hardest part of that morning was when Richard was moved to a hospital in Dublin, and he didn’t know that Mari had died.
The doctor came out to Orla and me and said that we would have to go in and tell him and the hardest part of all was having to go in and tell him that Mari was gone. All he knew of what was going on was when he made contact by phone. He never got to play any part in her funeral and on the day that we buried her, an hour later he was gone back to Dublin.
“John Lynch doesn’t realise what he has done. He has killed us with what he has done to her. The last time I saw her was on Sunday and then she left. The last time I spoke to her was at 9.40 that night, and I told her I’d be home in the morning and that I would see her, but I would never see her again.
“He could have killed all for of them. Thank God Richard woke up that night. He (Richard) did everything he could even when he was on the ground. Mari used to walk in her sleep. It would take an hour in the morning to wake her up. She probably went back in thinking it was all a dream or that she was half asleep. There are no words to express what he has done. He has torn our worlds apart.
“He (John Lynch) will get out to breath fresh air, but Mari never will,” Teresa said.
John Lynch had seventeen previous convictions and had a history of violence. His sentence will date from October 13 2011.
Issue dated: 22 June 2012
© Roscommon People