Northern Ireland

Son convicted of assaulting elderly father who later died avoids prison

John Kelly Sr.
John Kelly Sr.

A Co Tyrone man previously accused of unlawfully killing his elderly father before the charge was dropped to assault has avoided prison.

Cyril Kelly (56) from Blackwater Road, Dromore, was initially charged with the manslaughter of William (John) Kelly on a date between  June 15 and July 7 2021.

The charge was dropped to one of assaulting Mr Kelly Sr in the run up to his death on June 26 2021.

In addition, Kelly was also charged with assaulting his mother on a date between June 25 and 30 2021 and damaging her mobile phone.

He denied all charges but later changed his plea and pre-sentence reports were obtained.

On Tuesday, Omagh Magistrates Court heard the details of the incident for the first time, and began with the defendant's brother, David Kelly, talking to his mother on the phone on the evening of June 26 2021.

The defendant took the phone from his mother and shouted abuse at David Kelly, who ended the call.

He then rang his father’s phone several times, and Mr Kelly Sr managed to say “hello David” before the phone was taken from him and the defendant could again be heard shouting vulgar abuse.

David Kelly heard his father say “You’re not going to stop me from speaking to my son” while his mother told the defendant to stop.

He thought he heard someone speak of calling the police before the call abruptly ended.

Two days later, Mr Kelly Senior was taken to South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen where he subsequently died, aged 84 having suffered a subdural haemorrhage head injury.

Police were alerted and Kelly was arrested and interviewed several times, initially giving no comment replies. However, he then “became candid” and explained what happened.

He accepted assaulting his father by shouting and placing him in fear of immediate attack. During the course of this, Mr Kelly Sr “went to the ground".

Kelly also admitted striking his mother with a pillow which he had been “flailing about”, then smashing her phone.

A defence barrister said on the night of the incident, Kelly had consumed more alcohol than usual and had ceased taking regular medication for most of the week beforehand.

District Judge Bernie Kelly said: “This event involved elderly, vulnerable people in their own home, the one place they should have been safe. It should not have happened. I am duty bound to deem this so serious only custody will suffice.”

Kelly was jailed for a total of six months. However, the judge said this could be suspended for 12 months given the guilty pleas and previously clear record.

Initially there did not appear to be any concerns in Mr Kelly Sr’s death but it later transpired the PSNI's Major Investigation Team had launched a murder enquiry, arresting Mr Kelly Sr's son shortly afterwards.

He was released on bail pending further enquiries and matters appeared dormant for some time until news broke the son had been charged with manslaughter.

Mr Kelly Sr, a father-of-five and grandfather of 13, had been married for 60 years at the time of his death.

A successful shopkeeper and postmaster, he was described as: “An attentive, loving husband, father and eventually grandfather...with a friendly word for everyone and a harsh word for no-one.”