Declan O’Neill: Doctor who murdered his mother sentenced to eight years for ‘senseless’ killing

A Belfast doctor who murdered his mother was told today that he will serve a minimum of eight years in jail for the “brutal, senseless and unnecessary” killing.

Thursday, 7th November 2019, 12:52 pm
Declan O'Neill was sentenced to eight years for killing his mother.

Declan O’Neill wept as Mr Justice Colton said he was “provoked at the very least by the prolonged stress” endured by the “extremely controlling behaviour” of his mother Anne.

The 51-year-old woman was found with severe head injuries in the back garden of her elderly parents home in Finaghy on the morning of Saturday October 21st, 2017.

Neighbours contacted the police after they heard loud banging, a woman screaming and a female saying “leave me alone Declan”. Despite the intervention of emergency services, Mrs O’Neill was pronounced dead at the scene.

Her son armed himself with a chisel and attacked her with the weapon. He also banged her head and face off a hard surface, and post mortem carried out the following day concluded the cause of death was due to a bleed to the brain with multiple fractures to her skull.

Officers arrested at his Malone Avenue apartment a short time later, and despite initially denying involvement, the 29-year-old admitted killing his mother and said “I didn’t mean to, I just couldn’t take any more.”

Mr Justice Colton told Belfast Crown Court “all murders are tragic, but there is something particularly troubling about the murder of a mother by a son.

“The murder becomes stranger when one learns that the defendant is in fact a qualified medical doctor - a profession devoted to the care of others and the protection of life.”

As O’Neill wept, he was addressed by the Judge, who said he accepted there were strong mitigating factors in the case - including a lifetime of being controlled by his mother, and his mental state at the time.

Mr Justice Colton also remarked: “I take the view that this case clearly comes close to the borderline between murder and manslaughter.”

The Judge then told O’Neill he will serve a minimum of eight years before he is considered eligible for release by the Paroles Commission, which includes a period of 702 days he has served in custody on remand.

Speaking about the sentencing, Detective Inspector Joanne Harris, from the PSNI’s Major Investigation Team, said: “This is a very sad case and first and foremost our sympathies today go to Anne’s daughter and also to Anne’s mother and father and wider family and friends, who continue to come to terms with her death.

“This has been a long, protracted and harrowing case for all concerned. No matter what the circumstances are that led to the murder of Anne, no-one has the right to take another person’s life.

“I cannot imagine the distress and suffering Anne’s daughter must be feeling today as she mourns for her mother, whilst also having to come to terms with the fact that her brother will be serving eight years in prison for their mother’s murder. My sympathies also go to Anne’s parents who are dealing with the loss of their daughter and their grandson spending years in prison.

“Whilst today’s sentencing will never bring Anne back I hope that it will bring some closure to those who are left behind after what has been a very traumatic two years for all concerned.”