Ireland’s Ambassador to the UK, Adrian O’Neill, has given his support to the family of murdered St Albans Gaelic footballer Joe Deacy, and promised to “bring the family’s concerns to the attention of the relevant Irish authorities”.
The case has also been brought to the attention of UK Government Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.
Joe, 21, died from head injuries after being discovered outside of the house in which he was an overnight guest on 12 August 2017, in Gortnasillagh, near Swinford, Co Mayo.
Joe’s grandfather came from Bohola and he was a frequent visitor to the county, where he had family and friends.
He played Gaelic football for St Colmcilles in Hertfordshire and was an enthusiastic supporter of the Mayo football team, regularly travelling to Ireland to watch them play.
Members of the family living at the house in Gortnasillagh, were interviewed by police and a man in his twenties was arrested but later released.
The property was searched on two occasions by police, but no significant evidence found.
More than a year ago, Police submitted a file to Irish prosecution officials, but as yet no one has been charged with Joe’s murder.
His family, though, have refused to give up in their search for justice and still want a criminal trial and an inquest.
Amongst the many questions the family wants answered is why the owners of the property commissioned a private post-mortem examination.
Speaking ahead of their three-year anniversary of his son’s murder, Adrian Deacy described the “great father and son relationship” they shared.
“Maybe that’s why it’s so hard,” Mr Deacy told The Sunday Times. “We didn’t spend all our time together but I always knew exactly what he was thinking, what he was up to or what he was trying to hide.
“I want to see justice done but I know my grief is not going to be alleviated by seeing his killer locked up.”
The family’s solicitor, Tony Murphy, of Bhatt Murphy, said: “Taking over three years to arrive at a decision whether to institute criminal proceedings is a breach of the prosecutor’s obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights.
“This is no way to treat the victims of such a serious crime. Justice delayed is justice denied.”
The case was raised with Mr O’Neill and Mr Raab by Daisy Cooper, the MP St Albans.
“Joe’s murder is a tragedy made all the worse by a painful three-year wait just to find out whether there is enough evidence to pursue a criminal case,” said Ms Cooper.
“Joe’s family deserve to know what happened to their son. Mr Raab and the ambassador should work with the Irish authorities to conclude the review of the evidence, hold a public inquest and bring an end to the family’s wait.”
Mr Deacys says he has not been able to return to his house since the day Joe died, as it has too many memories.
“There’s a quarter-mile exclusion zone around that house for me,” said Mr Deacy.
“If a psychoanalyst got hold of me I’d be a classic case because I can’t handle talking about him or having photographs on display or mementoes.”
Joe had been socialising with friends in a pub in Kiltimagh on 11 August. The following morning, at approximately 6am a passing cyclist spotted his body outside of the house he was staying in, in Gortnasillagh, and alerted the emergency services.
He received attention from paramedics at the scene and was taken to Mayo University Hospital.
However, he died the next day (13 August) after being transferred to Beaumont Hospital in Dublin.
A post-mortem carried out by the State Pathologist, Professor Marie Cassidy, found the cause of death was due to blunt force trauma to the head.
To mark the first anniversary of Joe’s death in August 2018, more than 120 people travelled from Hertfordshire. A memorial Mass in the Church of the Immaculate Conception and St Joseph, Bohola, in Mayo.
That was followed by a Memorial Gaelic Football Match in Joe’s memory at Swinford Community Ground, with Joe’s St Colmcilles team taking on ‘The Hammers’ – a team made up of Joe’s family and friends.
The match was repeated last year, this time at St Albans Irish Club in Cotlandwick, and attended by approximately 350 people.
Inside a special programme for the game, and on a huge banner, the family sent out a ‘message to Joe’s murders’.
They said: “The Gardaí have their suspicions. All of Joe’s family and friends have their suspicions.
“To those who did it…..you can continue to hide in broad daylight, but we will never give up until the day you give yourselves up.”
In May 2019, the family was forced to walk away from a dispute with Mayo Council over two roadside memorials to Joe, which they said were a distraction to motorists.