Mayo farmer Padraig Nally has been found not guilty of the manslaughter of John Ward. The jury at the Central Criminal Court delivered its majority verdict after three days of deliberations. Ward died after being shot twice with a single barrel shotgun and beaten with a stick. Nally’s supporters will see this as an innocent and terrified man defending his home from a burglar while others feel it makes Mayo “look like Alabama”.
The initial verdict found Nally guilty but this was quashed and a re-trial was ordered when the Court of Criminal Appeal agreed that the trial judge, Mr Justice Paul Carney, had erred in law by not allowing the jury to consider a defence of full self-defence and by not allowing it to find Mr Nally not guilty.
Brief outline of what happened between Nally and Ward:
Ward was a member of the Travelling community and the father of eleven children. He was shot twice and beaten with a stick 20 times after he entered Mr Nally’s farmyard on 14 October 2004. The second and fatal shot was fired after Mr Ward had left the yard. Gardaí say it was fired from a distance of no more than 4.5 metres.
“I was out of my mind for these lads calling to my house all year,” he said in a statement.
Nally said he saw Ward’s son Tom in a car in his driveway and that he saw John Ward going in the back door of his farm. He had seen Ward a couple of weeks earlier.
He went back to his shed and took a gun, which was already loaded, out of a barrel there.
“I said ‘what are you doing in there, you rogue?’ ”
He said the first shot went off with excitement and hit Ward in the right hip.
Ward went straight for him and a fight began. Nally kicked Mr Ward in his back and blows were exchanged.
Nally said Ward attempted to take the gun but Nally then beat him about the head with a piece of wood.
“I struck him on the head and hands and feet. I must have struck him 20 times anyways,” said Nally while Ward shouted for his son Tom.
Nally could hear the car, in which Tom was sitting, revving. He went into the shed to get more cartridges and when he came out, he said he saw Ward walking along the road towards the village of Cross.
He pulled up the gun and shot him again. He said Mr Ward died instantly and he lifted up the body and threw it over a wall. He then reloaded the gun and took it in his car when he drove to his neighbour’s house.
Garda Det Sgt Carroll said there was a fear among elderly people in the area of people at that time. In 2004, there had been 20 crimes against property in the local Garda sub-district. Ward had approximately 80 previous convictions.