Tassagh double murder trial under way

November 11, 2013

The trial of four brothers accused of the double murder of Thomas O’Hare and Lisa McClatchey seven years ago, began last week.

Brothers Martin, Niall, Christopher and Stephen Smith are all accused of the murders of the County Armagh couple who were beaten with hammers and doused in petrol before being set on fire at their remote cottage in Tassagh near Keady. They were both seriously injured and died days later in hospital.

The Armagh Crown Court heard the prosecution case that the brothers carried out the attack in revenge for sexual abuse against Stephen Smith by Thomas O’Hare in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

In April 1998, Mr O’Hare pleaded guilty to indecently assaulting three young boys in the late 1980s, when he was around 17.

The Smith brothers deny the murders and charges of arson with intent to danger life.

Prosecutor Toby Hedron QC claimed that on the night of the murders the four brothers, all masked and carrying sledgehammers, burst into the home Mr O’Hare shared with Ms McClatchey.

He said they beat Mr O’Hare before dousing the house with petrol and setting it alight. The Smith brothers suffered burns on the same night and presented themselves to a Dundalk hospital for treatment, claiming to have been in car accident.

As members of Mrs McClatchey’s family sat listening in the public gallery, harrowing details were presented of the horrific injuries suffered by the couple.  A neighbour of Mr O’Hare’s, Seamus Loughran, took to the stand to give a detailed account of the night in question.

He described how he heard a loud banging at his home and his 11 year old daughter had opened the front door and slammed it shut again.  After she told him there was someone outside “covered in blood”, Mr Loughran was so alarmed he had locked all the doors.

Upon hearing the desperate cries of someone outside he opened the door to a half-naked and severely burnt Lisa McClatchey.  Mr Loughran told the court Ms McClatchey said five or six masked men had entered the house and beaten the couple.

He said her hair had been burned off and she was unable to see and she asked Mr Loughran to take her trousers off as the belt was burning her.

Once he had called emergency services Mr Loughran went into the house to find Mr O’Hare, who was “unrecognisable and covered with blood.” Other neighbours quickly arrived on the scene and tried to help. Two other neighbours gave evidence corroborating that both victims had said masked men had come into the house and attacked them.

Both victims were taken to hospital, but died a number of days later, after both suffering 80% burns.  Mr O’Hare succumbed to his injuries on November 6th while Ms McClatchey survived until November 15th.

The trial continues.