Murder trial hears of ex-GAA star’s mental problems

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.

Ex-GAA star Sean Hackett believed his father’s death would solve all that was wrong in his troubled teenage life, his murder trial heard yesterday.

Dungannon Crown Court was also told the 19-year-old thought of shooting his mother Eilis in the hours before killing his 60-year-old father Aloysius.

Consultant forensic clinical psychologist Dr Philip Pollock said when Hackett pulled the trigger on the .22 Czech-made rifle at their Aghindarrah Road family home in Augher, Co Tyrone, he was suffering from a recognised mental abnormality, absolving him of murder.

The former Tyrone Minors captain always admitted killing his father as he returned home from a GAA meeting on January 4 last year, but denies murdering him or possessing the hunting rifle used in the shooting.

Dr Pollock said while Sean Hackett was capable of self-control, evidenced by his decision not to shoot his mother, his ability of exercising any rational judgment was substantially impaired, adding that the teenager thought killing one parent would solve his psychological problems, and that they would go to heaven and become his guardian.

The doctor, a recognised leader in his field, said there was a clear link between Hackett’s distress and depression and his irrational idea of killing a parent, adding the abnormality was first recognised and diagnosed by psychologists as far back as the late-1930s.

The psychologist said Hackett’s abnormality of mind also satisfied the necessary criteria under the Coroners’ and Justice Act of 2009, which states where a person is suffering such an abnormality, they would not be convicted of murder.

Dr Pollock revealed the teenager’s plan initially involved shooting either one of his parents and that the idea had been developed over a period of time.

On the day before the killing Hackett sat glued to his computer, using online betting to manage his mood.

Dr Pollock also revealed that on the day of the shooting Hackett had harboured thoughts of killing his mother. He told the psychologist that on getting home he loaded the rifle and went around trying to pick out the ideal spot from which to assassinate her.

His mother arrived home, unaware her son was crouched behind a wall, waiting to fire.

But when it came to the crucial moment, Hackett said he could not bring himself to shoot.

In the house, his nerve failed again and he once more decided not to shoot her. Later he entertained the thought of shooting his father at the dining table, but decided he “couldn’t do it”.

But, after his father left home for a GAA meeting, Hackett lay in wait behind his brother’s car, and recalled that his heart had been pounding.

Hackett said he believed he shot his father three times as he picked the house keys from the flower pot by the door.

Hackett, the court heard, then thought of turning the gun on himself, but decided against it. He knelt to take his father’s hand, and for some reason, on feeling how cold it was, began to say “sorry” and mouthed a “couple of prayers” over his body.

The case continues.