By Alison O’Riordan
The 87-year-old mother of the Bandon man who was murdered in Cork Prison following an argument over switching television channels has said she loved her son dearly and it ‘breaks her heart everyday thinking of how and why he is not here anymore’.
This week Waterford man Brian Veale (31) was jailed for life at the Central Criminal Court for murdering Graham Johnson (41) in the kitchen of Cork Prison by stabbing him through the heart with a carving knife.
Veale, with a last address at Dominic Street in Cork but originally from Dungarvan, had pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr Johnson at Cork Prison in Cork City on May 16th, 2015.
On October 26th last, a jury of seven men and five women deliberated for one hour and 56 minutes before finding Veale guilty of murdering Mr Johnson.
On Monday last, the victim’s sister, Vivienne Johnson, read an emotional victim impact statement on behalf of her mother Theresa Johnson.
‘I am 87 years of age and Graham was my youngest child and I loved him dearly and it breaks my heart everyday thinking of how and why he is not here anymore,’ she said.
The court heard that Mr Johnson was a ‘family man’ and he was ‘the first to oblige’ his family if they needed anything.
‘He had worked in the construction industry and was a very good painter and decorator, he had promised that he would decorate my home once he was released from prison,’ she said.
Mr Johnson had “three beautiful children” whom he ‘idolised’ and his children ‘adored him’, the court heard.
‘It haunts me to this day seeing his daughter kiss her Daddy goodbye for the very last time and his son ask when is his Daddy coming home,’ she said.
The court heard that Mr Johnson’s hobbies were greyhound racing and horse racing.
He had trained greyhounds and that was his passion and he loved putting money on races.
‘When he would win he would share his winnings with me and his children which showed how caring and kind he was. Unfortunately for Graham, gambling became his illness and he made a very big mistake which sent him to Cork Prison. He had vowed to me that he would never make that mistake again and he would never go back to Cork Prison once he was released,’ his mother said.
She added that her son telephoned her every day from Cork Prison and they would chat about ‘working in the kitchen and learning how to bake’.
Mr Johnson told his mother that he would make her ‘a lovely apple tart once he was released’, the court heard.
‘It breaks my heart that he will now never be released and I miss hearing his voice on a daily basis,’ she said.
Addressing the murderer of her son, Brian Veale, she said: ‘I will never understand or be able to forgive your actions on that dreadful day. I am an old woman but I serve a life sentence every day of my life without my darling Graham in my life, his children have been deprived of a loving and doting father and you will have to live with that for the rest of your life.’
The second victim impact statement read to the court by Sergeant Roisin O’Dea was written by Mr Johnson’s daughter, who is thirteen years old.
The court heard that the murder of her father has had a huge impact on her life.
Her father’s murder occurred two days after her twelfth birthday and each year as her birthday approaches so, too, does ‘the anniversary of dad’s death’.
‘At 5pm on May 16th, 2015 I was in Cork City at a rugby match and to think that my father was in so much pain when I was enjoying myself at a match completely oblivious will never leave my mind. He may not have been the best dad, but no one deserves to have their life taken from them,’ she said.
The court heard that her mental health ‘hasn’t been the best’ since then and a part of her is ‘filled with uncertainty, pain and grief’.
‘My mum has always acted as my mum and dad, since dad was in prison, but one day he would be released. Now she will always have to act as two parents for me,’ she said.
The court heard that her father’s murder has ‘taken away a lot of memories’ for her that could have been created and ‘all over an argument about television channels’.
‘The question I always have is how something like that happened in such a secure place,’ she said.
Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy offered her condolences to Mr Johnson’s family and then sentenced Veale to the mandatory sentence of life imprisonment.