BY NATASHA REID
A CONVICTED murderer was sentenced this week to eight years in prison for impeding the investigation into the murder of another man who had found out about the killing.
Jonathan Duke (27) was strangled to death at Bridge House, Sean Hales Place, Bandon, on November 12th, 2011. His body was then thrown into the nearby River Bandon.
Just 24 hours earlier, a resident of the building, 42-year-old John Forrester, had met a similar fate.
Jonathan Duke, a father-of-one, was visiting Mr Forrester’s murderers there when he became aware of what had happened the previous day. Gardaí believe he was killed because he had knowledge of the first murder.
Mr Forrester’s former girlfriend, mother-of-three Catherine O’Connor, is currently serving life in prison for both murders. Her boyfriend at the time of the killings, Ciprian Grozavu (47), denied murdering both men and went on trial for their murders separately.
The Romanian father-of-one was found guilty of both murders and sentenced to life in prison. However, he appealed his murder conviction in the case of Mr Duke and the Court of Appeal quashed it and ordered a retrial. The trial took place at the Central Criminal Court in Limerick earlier in the summer. He was acquitted of murder by the jury upon direction of the judge. However, he was found guilty by a unanimous jury of two counts of impeding the apprehension or prosecution of another.
The family’s garda liaison officer read out a victim impact statement prepared by Mr Duke’s family. In it, his sisters wrote that they think of Mr Duke last thing at night and first thing in the morning.
‘We feel pain every day,’ they wrote.
They explained that his mother, Michelle, had sadly passed away in December.
‘Her life ended without knowing the outcome of this trial, without knowing the truth,’ they said.
‘He was the only man in our lives for a very long time,’ they said, describing him as a father figure as well as a brother. A caring person, he would now be an uncle to a baby boy and girl, they added. Mr Duke was also a very proud father to his daughter, Angel, who is now 18.
The court heard that Grozavu had 13 previous convictions. Along with his murder conviction, he also had convictions for assault causing harm, harassment, stalking, possession of knives, drunk driving and careless driving. The judge said the offence of impeding an investigation carried a maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment and found that a headline sentence of nine years was appropriate.
The judge said he accepted that Grozavu claimed he was in fear of O’Connor and her brothers, who were described as ‘violent people’. He said the defendant’s ‘multiple’ certificates and qualifications achieved in prison would see a discount of one year granted, resulting in eight years’ jail time.