Car thief who killed man after throwing him off bonnet as he drove away jailed for 9 1/2 years

By Claire Henry & David O'Sullivan

by Gazette Reporter
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A man who stole a car, before killing its owner by throwing him from the bonnet as he was driving off, has been jailed for nine and a half years.

Adam Murphy (22) of Cherry Orchard Crescent, Ballyfermot, Dublin 10, pleaded guilty to one count of the manslaughter of Ian McDonnell on January 23, 2022.

He further pleaded guilty to two counts of attempting to take a vehicle, three counts of stealing three vehicles, one count of attempting to steal property from a vehicle and one count of stealing a push bike at various locations throughout Dublin on the same date.

His co-accused, Keith McCormick Smith (22) of Riverview, Church Road, Mulhuddart, Dublin 15, pleaded guilty to two counts of attempting to take a vehicle, three counts of stealing three vehicles, one count of attempting to steal property from a vehicle and one count of stealing a push bike at various locations in Dublin on January 23, 2022.

He further pleaded guilty to one count of possession of stolen property in the form of a car key at his address on February 8, 2022.

The two men had been committing a “spree” of crimes, where they were robbing cars and planning to sell them. Murphy had stolen Mr McDonnell’s car while he was in his place of work, before driving off with Mr McDonnell on the bonnet.

Mr McDonnell was thrown from the bonnet of the car and onto the roadway. He died shortly afterwards.

Ian McDonnell

Sentencing the men on Monday Judge Dara Hayes said Ian McDonnell had been “callously killed by Adam Murphy” which he described as “devastation visited upon this family in such a senseless way.”

The judge said the two men “left Mr McDonnell dying on the roadway as they fled to continue their spree of thefts” which had been done “for the sake of whatever sum of money he hoped to get for a six-year-old family car”.

Mitigating factors included the early guilty pleas, the remorse the two men have expressed since and their personal circumstances.

Judge Hayes said the aggravating factors he considered when sentencing included the “callous disregard that each showed for the life of Ian McDonnell,” the fact that both men had relevant previous convictions, that the crimes were committed as part of a “spree” of offending and that this offending was premeditated and in pursuit of financial gain.

Murphy was sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment, but Judge Hayes suspended the final two and a half years on strict conditions in order to incentivise rehabilitation.

Judge Hayes said that although McCormick-Smith had not been charged with manslaughter, he was “involved in a chain of events that led to the death of an innocent man”.

He sentenced McCormick-Smith to three years and two months’ imprisonment, but suspended the final twelve months on strict conditions.

Murphy was disqualified from driving for 12 years from today’s date and McCormick-Smith was disqualified for seven years.

At the end of sentencing, Judge Hayes expressed his condolences to the McDonnell family.

At an earlier sentence hearing, the court heard that Ian McDonnell had stopped at his business, Ozone Car Sales, on Robinhood Road, Dublin 22, on the day in question. He pulled his car onto the forecourt and left the car running while he went inside.

Murphy and McCormick-Smith were seen on CCTV on Robinhood Road. They were driving a car that had been stolen earlier in the afternoon. They were seen driving past the car garage, doing a u-turn and finally pulling into a nearby business.

Murphy got out of the car and got into Mr McDonnell’s car. He began driving off in the car with Mr McDonnell on the bonnet.

The car could be seen accelerating, and Mr McDonnell was carried 46 meters. He was then thrown from the bonnet of the car and onto the roadway. His body travelled along the road for 9 meters. Murphy then drove away, leaving Mr McDonnell on the road.

CCTV footage of the incident was played privately to Judge Hayes.

Passers-by came upon Mr McDonnell and called the emergency services. He was taken to Tallaght Hospital, but never regained consciousness. He died on January 28, 2022.

Mr McDonnell’s car was found a few days later by gardai in the Walkintown area.

McCormick-Smith was arrested on February 14, 2022. He was detained and interviewed on four occasions. He made full admissions and said: “We set out to rob a car. We didn’t set out to kill anyone”. He said: “ I might seem like a scumbag, but I have emotions.”

The court heard that Murphy was arrested on February 16, 2022. He was interviewed on four occasions. During his second interview, he said, “I accept what happened on the night; it should have never happened. It all happened so fast.”

He also said “If I had seen him on the bonnet, I would have stopped.”

Murphy has 27 previous convictions, all from the District Court, which include road traffic offences, drug possession, arson and public order offences. He was also disqualified from driving at the time of this offence.

McCormick Smith has 16 previous convictions, all from the District Court, including the unauthorised taking of a vehicle, theft, public order, criminal damage and possession of knives.

Three members of Mr McDonnell’s family made victim impact statements.

Mr Perry read the statement on behalf of Mr McDonnell’s 18-year-old daughter Clodagh.

She said her mother received a call, and “it shattered our family forever”.

She recalled seeing her dad, “his head covered in blood.” She said: “He was pale and lifeless and that this was an image that no daughter should have to witness.”

“I whispered one last time, ‘I love you’ into his ear,” she said. She recalled “grown men weeping” beside her father’s casket. She described having to do her Leaving Cert and said, “Dad gave me the strength I needed”.

“He will never get to walk me down the aisle on my wedding day, and he will never get to meet my children,” she said.

A victim impact statement from Mr McDonnell’s 17-year-old son was also read to the court. He said he and his father were “really into cars” and would go to car shows.

He said for him his father died “when he closed the door behind him that last time”.

He recalled saying: “Bye Dad, I love you”.

Mr McDonnell’s wife, Monica, read her own statement to the court and said they were “childhood sweethearts”.

She described how becoming a father was the “proudest day of his life” and that “his greatest passion was his family.”

“When Ian died, part of me died that night as my heart belonged to him,” she said.

“…I think of the fear that he must have had on the bonnet of our car, lying on the road in pain,” she said, adding, “I miss him so much”.

The maximum sentence for manslaughter is life. Mr Perry told the court it is the view of the Director of Public Prosecutions that this offence lies in the higher sentencing range of 10 to 15 years.

Detective Sergeant Aidan Shaughnessy told David Perry, BL, prosecuting, that on the day in question between 4 and 9pm, Murphy and McCormick-Smith stole three cars and attempted to steal two more.

CCTV showed the two men in a carpark in Cherrywood. McCormick-Smith was seen on CCTV approaching a car and interfering with one of the windows. However, he failed to gain entry.

At approximately 4pm on the same day, both men were again captured on CCTV entering an apartment complex car park on Whitehall Road. The men left the car park a short time later and appeared on CCTV at 5.55 pm when Murphy was now cycling a red bicycle. This was the first time he was seen cycling this bike, and gardai believed it had been stolen.

The men then returned to the apartment complex car park and stole a Toyota Aqua that Murphy drove.

Det Sgt Shaughnessy agreed with Carol Doherty, BL, defending McCormick-Smith, that her client immediately indicated his remorse.

Dominic McGinn, SC, defending Murphy, said this is a very serious offence and what his client was doing on the day in question was for financial gain.

He said his client’s conduct is serious and cannot be explained. He highlighted to the court that his client had entered an early guilty plea, that he surrendered himself to the garda station within days and made admissions. He said his client offered a genuine apology for what had happened.

Mr McGinn told the court that the probation report placed his client at high risk of re-offending. A number of letters were handed into the court on Murphy’s behalf, along with a letter from Murphy.

Counsel said his client is genuinely remorseful.

Ms Doherty said her client has shown remorse throughout this process and taken responsibility for his actions.

She highlighted that he did not attempt to minimise his role in this offence and suggested that he is capable of change. She said he understands that he was critical in the role of the untimely death of Mr McDonnell.

Det Sgt Shaughnessy said mobile phones from Murphy and McCormick-Smith were seized and analysed.

Later that evening, Murphy and McCormick-Smith’s mobile phone data placed them in the Clonsilla area. They entered the Beachfield Lawn estate and smashed a car window but were unsuccessful in starting the car. Then they travelled to Adams Town Park, where they can be seen searching through a car’s glove box and middle console.

The Toyota Aqua was found several days later burned out. A Mazda Demio was also stolen by Murphy and McCormick-Smith and later found set on fire.

On February 8, 2022, gardai went to the home of McCormick-Smith in relation to a separate matter. He was arrested at his home, and while he was emptying his pockets, gardaí observed a Hyundai car key. When asked about the key, he said the car wasn’t stolen. Gardaí found a Hyundai i40 close by and discovered that the car had been stolen a number of days earlier in Kildare Town.

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