Abigail Rieley

Writer and Author

An Expected Verdict

After just under four hours of deliberations the jury in the Finn Colclough trial have handed in their verdict.

The courtroom was silent as the registrar took the issue paper from the young female foreman.  The tension in the room was palpable.  Several members of Sean Nolan’s family started to sob silently even before the jury had taken their seats.

The Colclough camp was silent, sitting straighter as the registrar unfolded the yellow paper.  Finn himself sat as he had sat throughout the trial, head down and staring at his hands.  His mother Alix gripped the back of his seat and stared straight ahead while his father Michael sat impassively.

“The jury find the accused, Finn Colclough not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter.”

There was silence in the court.  As the judge completed the formalities the two families sat wrapped up in their own thoughts.  The only overt emotion was from Finn’s young friends when they heard he would be spending the weeks until his sentence on December 19th behind bars.

The Nolan family sat quietly.  Even his mother Charlotte, who had seemed so close to tears on many occasion during the trial, was dry eyed at the verdict.

Once Mr Justice Paul Carney climbed down from his high seat everyone stood around quietly.  It was almost eerily calm. The various groups stood around without talking, there was a strange deference in the room.

As usual in these circumstances the press were waiting around to see if anyone would speak to us.  At the midpoint of a Friday afternoon the normally buzzing Round Hall had the leaden calm of a funeral home as people broke off into small groups or wiped away silent tears.  Neither side had any cause to celebrate.  Neither had got the result they had secretly hoped for.

Even the traditional gathering outside the Four Courts was a muted affair.  No one really expected anyone to speak to the press, after all, it will now be almost Christmas before the story has a resolution and it makes more sense to issue a statement when the story has an end of sorts.

But what was extraordinary was the way, when the Nolan family came through the gates of the courts onto the Quays the only sound was the muted clacking of the cameras as photographers stood and took their passing shots and the reporters stood in a mute group, microphones pointed down waiting as the family hurried past them.  No-one stepped forward, no-one tried to speak as if this was a scene that ultimately we simply did not have a say in at this time.

Later, stopping off for an end of work pint after a bitch of a week, I watched Finn being led away from jail on the RTE evening news.  Looking still so young, even though he is now branded a killer in the eyes of the law, he was shown being marched in handcuffs towards the waiting prison van.  His walk seemed to take forever and it was noticeable that the route he was brought was neither the shortest nor the most secluded open to his guards.

It’s been a stressful day but my week I’m sure is nothing compared to the pain both families have and will suffer as a result of this terrible tragedy.

From now on it’s back to my favourite blonde and her Egyptian nemesis as I get ready for the Sharon Collins and Essam Eid sentence on Monday.  It’ll be a weekend chained to the computer but it’s necessary.  It’ll almost be a relief to deal with older subjects next week.  The story of Finn Colclough and Sean Nolan was a horrible, tragic mess that could only leave a bad taste and a sad memory.

2 Comments

  1. Ms. Rieley,

    Your assumption that Sean Nolan was drunk is obviously discredited by Dr. Marie Cassidy`s evidence which proved Sean Nolan had only a moderate amount of alcohol in his system and no drugs unlike his killer!My opinion is that Sean Nolan was attempting not to argue with his attacker but to disarm him. He spoke the most sensible advice of the night when he told Colclough he should`nt be waving the knives around. In some of your articles covering the trial you appear very sympathetic to Colclough calling him “Finn” repeatedly. Where is your questioning of parental responsibility to three minors one of whom was only 15 years old at the time of the killing? High and drunk, how can their account of the events that night be relied upon? Sharing joints and drinking other peoples unfinished drinks is hardly the behaviour of someone with O.C.D! Spare a thought for Sean Nolan only 18 years old who`s life was taken from him because he dared to be on a public footpath at 4am doing nothing more than attempting to open a bottle of wine! He was never on the Colclough`s property. Having read your coverage of the Colclough murder trial I think you need to remember who the guilty person is in this case.

  2. Abigail

    13th November 2008 at 5:48 pm

    Ms Hemming,
    The jury found Finn Colclough guilty of manslaughter – not of murder. Having sat through every day of the trial I would be inclined to agree that this was a valid verdict.
    I said repeatedly in what I wrote here that this is a case with a lot of victims. Both families lost someone that night…Sean Nolan’s family will never get him back. I can only imagine the pain his mother Charlotte feels losing her son under such circumstances, at a time in his life when he should have looking forward to the future.
    This is a trial that evoked a very emotional reaction in a lot of people. People who were unable for whatever reason to stand back and look at the facts rationally.
    What happened that night was a tragedy. I’m not assuming that Sean Nolan was drunk, simply that he’d been out celebrating, deservedly, the finishing of his secondary education.
    His own friends gave evidence that they knew Colclough and his friends felt threatened by them. Even that one of them ran up and rang the door bell. Fine, maybe it was just high spirits and they had no way of knowing what kind of reaction they might get but it’s still behaviour that could even be described as mild bullying.
    Even if you treat the testimony of Colclough’s friends with caution, there was enough agreement in the stories of both groups of friends to give a pretty clear picture.
    While I’m not aiming cricisim at Sean Nolan or his friends and wouldn’t for a moment think that he deserved to die, of course he didn’t, I will point out that these were three lads who were wandering around the suburbs of south Dublin looking for a party. They weren’t the first 18 year olds to do so and they certainly won’t be the last but that kind of plan is frequently ill advised. It’s on a par with phoning an ex at 3 o’clock in the morning or mooning at a garda car. Not badness just not a good plan.
    As for Colclough’s OCD, it was a longstanding diagnosis. His doctors had concluded that he had made a sufficient recovery to stop his treatment some six months before Sean Nolan’s death. Whatever I might think about the advisability of someone with a history of his condition smoking joints or of the obvious lack of supervision of a trio of teenagers is beside the point. He was not mentally ill.
    The defence did not introduce that evidence to suggest diminished responsibility but argued that it was necessary to show all the facets of Colclough’s personality so that the jury could decide whether his actions would constitute self defence when put to the objective test that is required by Irish law.
    As I say, this is a case that people tend to have a strong gut reaction to. I can see why but I was trying to see both sides. While I was writing most of my coverage of the trial on this blog, the trial was ongoing and in those circumstances the accused is presumed innocent until the jury finds him otherwise.
    This was a particularly nasty trial in many ways and sitting in that courtroom day after day it was difficult if not impossible not to feel sorry for both families. I respect your reaction but I merely wrote about what was presented in court and the facts are as they are.

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