GAA star Sean Hackett admits killing father, but denies murder

Gaelic footballer Sean Hackett pictured with Tyrone Manager Mickey Harte and his solicitor attending his father's funeral last year.
Gaelic footballer Sean Hackett pictured with Tyrone Manager Mickey Harte and his solicitor attending his father's funeral last year.

GAA star Sean Hackett, who admits shooting his 60-year-old father Aloysius twice in the head with a high-velocity hunting rifle, went on trial yesterday accused of his murder.

His father, a former chairman of St Macartan’s GAA, was found at the rear yard of the family’s home on the Aghindarragh Road in Augher shortly before midnight on January 4 last year.

Wishie Hackett.

Wishie Hackett.

Dungannon Crown Court heard Sean, a former Co Tyrone GAA minors captain, denies murdering his father, and two further charges of possessing a .22 Czechoslovakian-made hunting rifle and ammunition with intent to endanger life on differing dates between November 1, 2012 and December 25, 2012, and also between December 31, 2012 and January 5, 2013.

However, prosecution QC Ciaran Murphy told the jury of six men and six women: “There is no dispute between the parties in relation to the facts that Sean Hackett shot his father in the head on January 4, 2013 with a rifle which he obtained from his friend Ronan Mulrine.

“There was no other person involved in these alleged offences. The defendant accepts that he intended to kill his father.

“We say that Mr Sean Hackett murdered his father Aloysius Hackett. It is the most serious crime in the criminal calendar.

“He used a .22 calibre rifle to kill his father and did so, we say, deliberately, and did so after having obtained the rifle, clearly planned to use it.”

Mr Murphy told trial judge Mr Justice Stephens that Hackett borrowed the rifle on two occasions and on the second occasion, “we say he murdered his father” with the same gun.

The jury also heard that Mr Mulrine had previously been charged with possessing the rifle and ammunition in suspicious circumstances but pleaded guilty to providing the weapon.

“He had no knowledge of what Sean Hackett’s intentions were,” said the prosecutor.

Police were alerted after receiving a report from ambulance control around 11.50pm on January 4, 2103.

PSNI officers went to the scene at Aghindarragh Road where they found the body of Aloysius Hackett at the back of the house, lying on his back with a bunch of keys to his Citroen Xsara car in his right hand, the court was told.

Mr Murphy said that a silver Peugeot 307 car, which Sean Hackett had borrowed that night, was parked in the driveway of a neighbour’s house.

He said that Sean Hackett had reported the death to his neighbours Cathal and Marie McKenna. He appeared to them to be “shocked” when he arrived at their home. The court was told that the couple drove to the Hackett home nearby and found the body of Aloysius Hackett.

Police later searched the Peugeot car and found the .22 rifle under a mat in the boot. When first spoken to by police, Mr Murphy said Sean Hackett told officers that “something was wrong at the house’’ and told them there may have been a burglary.

The court heard officers who attended the scene found blood splatterings on the rear step of the Hackett home and also noted blood on the knees of Sean Hackett’s tracksuit trousers.

Mr Justice Stephens was told that a detective inspector arrived at the scene at 2.55am and was told that Sean Hackett wanted to speak to him. The detective went to a nearby house where Sean Hackett was in a bedroom. “Mr Sean Hackett told the detective: ‘I did it’,’’ said Mr Murphy.

“He was cautioned and made no reply but in respect of what happened, he replied: ‘I shot him’.’’

Hackett was taken away for interview but made no reply to questions for almost two days he was in police custody.

However, the court heard that he had made a prepared statement for detectives. It said: “I was involved in an incident with reference to the death of my daddy whom I love very much.

“I have been suffering from depression and was seeking medical attention at the time. That’s all I have to say at this time.’’

The court heard that on January 8, 2013, Hackett was formally charged with the murder of his father.

The trial continues.

‘This was a crime that was planned ... he is guilty’

A post-mortem examination on Aloysius Hackett, by Northern Ireland’s deputy state pathologist Alistair Bentley, found that he had been shot twice to the head.

The court yesterday also heard it was Mr Bentley’s opinion the second bullet had caused the fatality as it had lodged between the brain and the skull.

The jury heard that a forensic examination of the scene recovered a third spent round lodged in the door frame of the back door of the Hackett home. Two other spent .22 shell casings were found in the clothing of Sean Hackett following his arrest.

Prosecution QC Ciaran Murphy said that Sean Hackett told his friend Ronan Mulrine that he wanted to borrow one of his father’s hunting rifles to “shoot rabbits’’. The pair went to the Mulrine home and Hackett removed the .22 rifle from a locked gun cabinet along with a quantity of ammunition.

The prosecution lawyer said the rifle could operate in two ways: by inserting a magazine into the gun or by using it in a bolt-action fashion, loading a round at a time into the gun or two at a time.

“The death of Mr Aloysius Hackett was as a result of being shot to the head. All the fatal wounds were inflicted by Sean Hackett loading and reloading the .22 rifle in order to shoot dead his father.

“This was a crime, we say, that was planned, that he obtained the weapon and clearly knew how to use it accurately.

“He did what he did and then was able to load and reload that weapon despite the horror of what he must have seen before him once the first shot had been inflicted.

“Despite all of the horrors of doing what he did to his own flesh and blood, his own father, Sean Hackett, we say, is guilty of the murder of Aloysius Hackett,’’ added Mr Murphy.

Later a paramedic told the jury when he arrived at the Hackett family home he found a male in his 60s bleeding heavily to the head.

Stephen McClintock said that on January 4, 2013 he and a colleague were redirected from a call out to Fivemiletown and told to go to Augher.

Mr McClintock, who has 14 years experience as a paramedic, said: “I could see a person lying face up on the ground. There were two other people standing beside him.’’

He told the jury that he noticed a pool of blood “two metres long’’ at the back of Aloysius Hackett’s head.

“I brought the defibrillator and the resuscitator out to the deceased and checked for a pulse but I couldn’t find one.’’

He said he then opened up Mr Hackett’s upper clothing to expose his chest and attach the resuscitator “but there was no sign of life’’.

Asked by Mr Murphy how long he believed the victim was dead, Mr McClintock replied: “He was not dead for long.

“The blood had not coagulated. It was flowing freely from an injury to the back of his head.’’

Mr McClintock said he spoke to a number of people at the scene, including a parish priest and a man called ‘Cathal’.

He added: “I did speak to a Mr Sean Hackett briefly. He was very distressed and was crying.

“I then got a blanket and put it over the deceased.’’