Car thief who killed man by throwing him off bonnet as he drove away jailed for 9.5 yearsPadraig Conlon 12 Feb 2024
By Claire Henry & David O’Sullivan
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.
Sentencing the men today, 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”.
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.
Mitigating factors included the early guilty pleas, the remorse the two men have expressed since and their personal circumstances.
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 Walkinstown 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.