A son who killed his mother in a drug-fuelled "frenzied knife attack" a decade ago and whose murder conviction was subsequently overturned by the Supreme Court remains a public risk and will need to be supervised when he is released into the community, a High Court judge has ordered.
Imposing a 14-year jail term at the Central Criminal Court on Monday on a charge of manslaughter, Mr Justice Michael White said Celyn Eadon "remains at risk of inflicting violence on the public" and his violent temperament is an "alarming factor". The court heard that he has eight previous convictions for assaults carried out on prison staff, which occurred subsequent to his mother's killing.
Eadon's sentence was backdated to when he first went into custody in March 2011 and Mr Justice White said it was essential that the defendant be supervised and placed in high support accommodation upon his release from prison.
The judge said that the now 29-year-old had inflicted multiple stab wounds to his mother's head and body and killed her in a "frenzied attack" at their family home, which was caused by chronic substance abuse after he ingested a "cocktail" of illegal substances.
The court heard during Eadon's sentence hearing earlier this month that he was in danger of becoming homeless once he is released from custody and the probation services were not in a position to offer him suitable accommodation.
Defence counsel Patrick Gageby SC had submitted that it was "utterly apparent" that Eadon had acquired a brain injury from his consumption of drugs as a juvenile and it was unfortunate that this matter was "not more readily publicised". He said that "gross intoxication" was not an excuse for his client's actions but it had deprived him of an intention to kill and cause serious injury to his mother.
Last November, the State accepted Eadon's plea to the lesser offence of manslaughter, on the basis that intoxication can prevent the formation of the statutory intent needed for murder.
Eadon was aged 19 when he killed his 46-year-old mother in the early hours of March 9, 2011. He stabbed Noreen Kelly 19 times in their home at Derrycrieve, Islandeady, Castlebar, Co Mayo.
He had admitted to her killing that day and pleaded guilty to her manslaughter. However, a jury found him guilty of her murder by unanimous verdict, and he was sentenced to the mandatory term of life imprisonment in February 2014.
The defendant had his conviction for murder overturned in December 2019, when a five-judge Supreme Court ruled that it was unsafe. The superior court found that the trial judge's instruction to the jury on intoxication and specific intention was inadequate, as it had not informed the jury of the "vitally important point" that intoxication can be a partial defence to murder but not to manslaughter.
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) had to decide whether to accept Eadon's manslaughter plea or pursue a retrial on the murder charge. However, the Central Criminal Court was told last October that the DPP was accepting the plea to manslaughter on the basis of intoxication.
The Supreme Court noted in its judgement that since Eadon was aged 13, he was a significant and persistent abuser of alcohol and drugs, including amphetamines, cocaine and crystal meth. In the 18 months before the killing, he was spending upwards of €400 per week on drugs and drank large quantities of alcohol on a daily basis.
Before delivering the sentence on Monday, Mr Justice White said Eadon had been acting in "a strange manner" on the day before the killing and had lit two fires and put a chainsaw into the boot of his mother's car. Eadon's father had left the family home around 11pm on the night of the incident, he said, thinking his son had "calmed down". He said the accused had been abusing drugs at the time, taken a lot of methamphetamine and cannabis and his mother had previously burned the drugs.
The judge said Eadon had a specific learning difficulty and was not suffering from a mental illness at the time but the severity of his substance misuse had induced his brain damage.
Having regard to the gravity of the offence, Mr Justice White said the aggravating factors were the use of a knife and the level of violence used. He pointed out that Eadon was "lacking violence" prior to the killing of his mother.
In mitigation, the judge noted his guilty plea, remorse and cooperation with the investigation.
Mr Justice White said the accused remains at risk of inflicting violence on the public and he has eight convictions for assaults carried out on prison staff since he began his life sentence.
The judge emphasised that his violent temperament was an "alarming factor" and said a "high degree of prioritisation" was required.
On Monday, Eadon was sentenced to 16 years in prison with the final two years suspended on the condition he adhere to the strict conditions set by Mr Justice White. The sentence was backdated to March 11, 2011.
The judge outlined a number of conditions for the suspended part of the sentence, including that Eadon follow all the directions of the probation service, reside at an address agreed with the probation officer, attend all appointments with the probation service and cooperate fully with the HSE and service providers in relation to his physical and mental health needs.
Furthermore, Eadon must comply with medical advice regarding his prescribed medication, refrain from the use of illicit substances and non-prescribed medication and any visits to his family home must be undertaken in consultation with gardai.
In addition, the judge imposed an additional condition that there be appropriate assessment in planning for his release and securing high support accommodation.
Mr Justice White stressed that there was "an urgent need" that Eadon be released in a structured manner and be supervised in the community. "It is essential that high support accommodation needs to be given in a structured release. The only practical way to deal with him on release is through the mental health service due to his substance induced brain injury," he added.
Following the sentence, Eadon who appeared on Monday via video-link from prison, asked the judge a number of times "what's my release date?" but Mr Justice White said that was a matter for the prison authorities once his remission periods had been calculated and it was not subject to the court's jurisdiction.
SENTENCE HEARING - FEBRUARY 8, 2021:
At Eadon's sentence hearing earlier this month, Seamus Clarke SC on behalf of the DPP told Mr Justice Michael White that Eadon would "go into homelessness" if a sentence was imposed where he would be re-released into society.
Mr Clarke said that the probation services were not in a position to offer Eadon suitable accommodation. "There is a difficulty there in relation to housing needs. I had understood they needed some time to assist with housing difficulties moving forward," he said.
The barrister said the DPP had assessed the case as falling into the high culpability range for manslaughter cases.
In his submissions, Patrick Gageby Sc, for Eadon, said that "these matters" disturb his client even after 10 years and pointed out that Eadon had admitted killing his mother upon his arrest and at his trial. "The only issue for the jury to decide at the end of the case was either diminished responsibility or intoxication manslaughter and they chose differently," he said.
Mr Gageby submitted that the court had extensive material and it was "trite" to say that some problematic matters had arisen in relation to Eadon's behaviour, which he asked the judge to look at. "The court is conscious of the limits of this jurisdiction in relation to preventative detention," he added.
Counsel said prior to his client's arrest for this matter, he had "offered no violence" to his mother, which Mr Gagby said was shown from the "moving testament" and letter read to the court from Eadon's father, Mark Eadon, last November.
"It is utterly apparent that the defendant acquired a brain injury from his drug-taking as a juvenile and unfortunately that was not more readily publicised. Undoubtedly, this case with the plea of manslaughter was predicated on the basis of gross intoxication," said Mr Gageby.
The barrister stressed that "gross intoxication" is not an excuse for what happened but it did deprive Eadon of his intention to kill and cause serious injury to his mother. "This is not a mere intoxication but a florid intoxication with bizarre ideas," he indicated.
Mr Gageby asked Mr Justice White to make the sentence proportionate and understand the difficulties in his client's "aftercare". "I know the court cannot and will not make any presumptions about his future conduct," he said.
SENTENCE HEARING - NOVEMBER 16, 2020:
At Eadon's sentence hearing last November, Detective Sergeant James Carroll told Seamus Clarke SC, prosecuting, that Ms Kelly had taken drugs from her son’s bedroom and burnt them on the evening before she died. She had also put out two fires he had lit and put a chainsaw into the boot of her car.
Eadon’s sentence hearing at the Central Criminal Court last November was interrupted a number of times and his video link turned off for a time, as he shouted abuse at the prosecutor. The barrister was detailing a list of his mother’s stab wounds at the time.
Both the deceased's brother and Eadon’s father stated that Noreen Kelly had called them to the house that evening for help. His father, Mark Eadon, said his son was starry-eyed and he was convinced the teenager was on speed. He left at 11pm.
Eadon’s younger brother dialled 999 at 1.38am. He had been woken by his mother screaming for help and had found her slumped on the floor, with her face covered in blood.
The house was full of smoke and Ms Kelly showed no signs of life by the time the emergency services arrived.
Her killer had fled cross-country, and a neighbour noticed him in his back garden at breakfast time. Eadon told the neighbour that he had been abducted by aliens, who had conducted experiments on him, and that he had killed his mother.
He later told Gardaí that "she went for me", that he didn’t know it was his mother and that she was a totally different person. He said that he had clipped her with a knife that he’d had in his pocket for five to 10 minutes.
Eadon, who has been in custody since that day, was offered a seat in the room in prison from where he followed the sentence hearing by video link. He preferred to stand, but had sat down and could no-longer be seen by the time Mr Clarke was leading the sergeant through the pathology report.
Counsel detailed the stab wounds to Ms Kelly’s eye, brain, jugular, lung, liver and other areas. These had caused catastrophic haemorrhage. There were also classic defence injuries to her arms and legs. Death would have been rapid.
Mr Clarke then proceeded to go into more detail about each of the 19 stab wounds.
Eadon stood back up and accused him of listing more injuries than she had. “You f**ing w**ker,” he said. “You f**ing annoying b**tard. You f***ing asshole.”
Mr Justice Michael White asked Eadon’s barrister, Patrick Gageby SC, about the possibility of turning off the link to the prison, and Mr Gageby confirmed that the judge had discretion. Justice White then instructed that the hearing continue in Eadon’s absence for a time.
Mr Clarke read out a victim impact statement prepared by Mark Eadon, the deceased’s former husband and Eadon’s father.
He said that his wife had lost her life trying to protect her child.
“I do not blame Celyn for what happened anymore,” he said. “I’m sure, had she survived, she would have forgiven him.”
He said that young people now are under great pressures.
“The international drugs trade has almost every nation in its grip,” he concluded.
At this stage, the link to the prison was reconnected and Eadon asked why Mr Clarke was "lying" about his mother’s injuries.
Mr Gageby explained that his client had always become "exercised" when his mother’s injuries were mentioned.
However, Eadon continued to speak even when Mr Gageby began cross-examining the sergeant about other matters.
The hearing continued, with the sergeant confirming that the deceased had tried to have her son admitted to hospital, but had been told that the Gardaí would need to be involved.
Eadon rubbed tears from his eyes as Mr Gageby read out a letter the prisoner had written.
“I didn’t set out to kill my mother,” he wrote. “I pray to God my mother can forgive me.”
He wrote that he felt like a bad person, and had to learn to live with it.
“I wish I could go back to that night in question,” he continued. “My mother is gone forever because of me.”