The late Kenneth O'Brien
The family of the late Kenneth O’Brien have said that the image portrayed of him in the course of the trial was not the Ken they knew and loved; he had been a family man. They were speaking of the devastation his murder had on them before a Central Criminal Court sentenced his murderer to life in prison this afternoon.
His father, Gerry O’Brien, delivered a statement he had prepared with his wife, Susan. The mother of his child, Eimear Dunne, had her statement delivered by a member of the gardai.
Gerry and Susan O’Brien described the deceased as a wonderful son, who the family missed terribly, but could never have back.
“The image portrayed of Ken in the course of this trial is not the Ken we knew and loved,” they wrote.
“There are no words to describe the trauma and desolation felt by our family since our Ken was murdered. Our lives will simply never be the same again. We have been left without our first-born child and his own son has been left without his father for the rest of his life. Lee and Janine have been left without their brother and Eimear has been deprived of her partner in life,” read Mr O’Brien.
“The worst part of it all was being told our son was a torso in a suitcase, the utter disregard shown for our child as a human being and the barbaric nature in which he was treated and discarded, it was an affront to all who knew him,” he continued. “We couldn’t function until the rest of Ken was found and could be given a proper burial. We still have never recovered his hands.”
They described their son as an intelligent, hard worker, who had been working from the age of 15.
“He was a lovely child to rear,” they recalled. “He was a joy, fun-loving and carefree.”
They said he had become an independent man very quickly and was always helpful to others.
“It’s impossible to sum up his 33 years in a couple of pages,” they wrote.
They said that, as could be seen by the support for the family throughout the trial, their son had been very much loved by many.
“He will be always on our minds and in our hearts,” concluded his father. “Forevermore, there will be a pain in my heart, a cold place in my heart for what has happened to Ken and that cold place will be with me forevermore.”
Mr O’Brien thanked the jury, the judge, the prosecution team, the gardai, along with their family and friends for their support over the past 34 months.
Kenneth O’Brien’s partner, Eimear Dunne, had also prepared a victim impact statement, which was delivered to the court by Detective Gda Aine O’Sullivan.
“On the 17 of December 2015, Kenneth came home from Australia for good. This was our fresh start, our new beginning: Kenneth, myself and the apple of our eye,” she said, referring to their four-year-old son, ‘our only baby’.
“Kenneth went to Australia to earn money for us as a family to better our lives,” she wrote.
“My birthday was on Thursday January 14 2016. We celebrated that day as a family,” she recalled.
She said that they had planned to spend the weekend celebrating but that never happened because their partner and father never came home.
“When I received that text from someone pretending to be Kenneth, I knew it wasn’t from him. I knew that Kenneth didn’t send that message and I knew something was very wrong,” she said. “I cannot put into words the feelings I experienced over the next few days and months after finding out that Kenneth had been murdered in the most gruesome of ways.”
She said that no mother should have to do what she had to do, in telling their beautiful boy that his idol, his father, was never coming home.
“I put aside my grief to care for our grieving child. The impact that this murder has had on an innocent four-year-old is immeasurable,” she explained.
She said that she would do everything in her power to make sure that her partner’s memory would be kept alive and and that their son would remember all the good things about him.
“Kenneth was a family man, who idolised or son,” she said. “They were like two peas in a pod.”
She said her partner had passed his love for cars, bikes and machinery onto their son.
“It breaks my heart that Kenneth will never get to see him grow up, to celebrate his birthdays, Christmases, will never get to see him be the wonderful boy that he is growing up to be,” she said.
“We had put the past in the past and had moved forward in our relationship as a loving family unit, looking forward only to the new future together, but that was cruelly taken from us with no warning,” she concluded.
She said she would not have been able to get through ‘this living nightmare’ without the support of her whole family. She also thanked the garda investigation team.
Michael O’Higgins SC, defending Paul Wells Snr, said his client had asked him to say that he and the deceased were close friends and that he deeply regretted what had happened. While he respected the jury’s verdict, he contended it was an error.
Mr Justice Paul McDermott expressed his condolences to Mr O’Brien’s family, partner and child.
“The circumstances of the late Mr O’Brien’s death quite clearly were shocking and distressing,” he said. “I just want to acknowledge the dignity with which they have borne that in court, during which many upsetting things were heard and absorbed by them.”
He said that the law was quite clear and that there was only one available sentence of imprisonment for life. He imposed that sentence, backdating it to 6th February 2016, the date Wells was arrested.
Wells, who sat angled away from his victim’s family throughout the trial, then turned to face them.
“I’m very sorry” he said, before being led away to begin his life sentence.