Two men who attacked 51-year-old Desmond O'Beirne in Trafalgar Square have been sentenced for their parts in his death.
Lucas Antunes, 22 (04.02.97) of no fixed address - extradited from the US to face justice - was jailed for three years and nine months at the Old Bailey on Friday, 8 February having previously admitted manslaughter.
Luis Abella, 22 (29.05.96) of Marshall Court, SW4 had previously pleaded guilty to attempting to cause actual bodily harm and was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment suspended for two years.
Desmond, who lived in Pimlico, had been out for the night and fallen asleep on a grass area outside the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, WC2.
After waking up he then approached several people, including Antunes and Abella who took exception and pursued and attacked him at around 00:25hrs on Saturday, 3 June 2017.
The London Ambulance Service attended and treated Desmond at the scene before taking him to hospital. However, he died from his injuries on Wednesday, 20 December 2017.
A post-mortem examination at Westminster Mortuary on 3 January 2018 determined cause of death as a head injury.
Desmond's death was investigated by the Homicide and Major Crime Command, led by Detective Chief Inspector Noel McHugh.
Abella was originally charged with manslaughter on 15 August 2018 before admitting attempted ABH.
Antunes fled to the US after the incident. Thanks to close liaison with the US authorities, he was traced, detained and extradited back to the UK in September 2018.
He was charged with manslaughter on 27 September.
DCI McHugh said: "Desmond was a completely harmless individual who had gone out that night for a beer and should have quietly gone back home again.
“However Abella and Antunes delivered a mindless and pointless attack on Desmond, punching him in the back of the head and kicking him while he was on the ground. He suffered injuries that would put him in a coma for six months. He never stood a chance.
"The support of the media and the public has been instrumental in gaining justice for Desmond’s family – a witness come forward following our appeals and identified both suspects.
“I am so proud of my detectives for their outstanding work and the US Marshalls who were truly exceptional in securing Antunes’ return from the US and helping ensure he faced justice.
“This case really does show what can be achieved when people come together to help solve crime. I would urge anyone who has information about a crime, who is hesitating to make that call, to see how coming forward can change a family’s life.”
The officers involved in investigating the case were commended for their work by the sentencing Judge.
Desmond’s sister Vivienne Folan said: “Desmond was born on 27 August 1966 and grew up in Edgware, Middlesex where he attended St James’ Catholic School. He was a first-rate student, winning ‘Best in Year’ award at college.
“Desmond spent his whole life working in civil engineering and the construction industry and was a highly skilled professional who specialised in ‘steel fixing’. He was well regarded within his profession.
“He was a hardworking, larger than life character, who lived in Pimlico and worked in and around London. He was my only brother. He leaves behind a 19-year-old son who is currently studying at university.
“It was devastating when I was contacted by his friend and told that he had been brutally attacked in Trafalgar Square. It is extremely difficult for me to express the pain I felt when I had to watch CCTV footage of my brother being attacked from behind by two men whilst running away and then being left for dead. Not only that, but Desmond was on his own and relied on the actions of passers-by to raise the alarm with the emergency services.
“When I visited Desmond in hospital, he was unrecognisable to me both visually and physically because of his injuries from the attack. It was so terribly painful for me to see him like this. He was utterly helpless and unable to recognise or communicate with me in his vegetative state. Desmond did not regain full consciousness and we never again had the opportunity to communicate with each other.
“Desmond’s life was needlessly cut short because of a mindless and cowardly attack by two men who showed no remorse and left my brother for dead.
“We, his family, have found the past 18 months extremely difficult in coming to terms with the brutal and senseless attack on Desmond and the pain and suffering he must have endured in the intervening six months prior to his death from his injuries.
“We have taken some comfort from the tireless investigation carried out by the police officers involved in bringing these two men to justice.
“The officers have been outstanding, from a CCTV image they have pulled out all the stops. There has been exceptional support from the media and public leading to the arrests and justice.
“This is what can be achieved when we all come together; the police cannot do it all on their own, they need our support.”