A violent criminal who brutally hacked a 76-year-old man to death with an axe in the victim’s sheltered accommodation has been sentenced to life in prison.
“You won’t be playing happy families when the sentence is read out. Now you have pleaded guilty, now you have to pay the price for your crime. You can’t escape reality; your children will be asking ‘Where is daddy?’ – that is your reality,” the victim’s son told his father’s murderer, Oliver Doran, on Monday.
Doran (24), with an address at Sophia Housing, Cork Street, Dublin 8, initially pleaded not guilty to the murder of Kwok Ping Cheng (76) at Robinson’s Court on the same Dublin street, on a date between April 28th and 29th, 2021, and his trial began in January.
He subsequently changed his plea to guilty.
The court heard the day after the murder, Doran had fled Ireland with his family.
In passing the sentence at the Central Criminal Court, Mr Justice David Keane said this was “a senseless” murder with no motive, and ruled that he was required to impose the maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
At Monday’s sentence hearing, Detective Garda Richard Pender gave evidence to prosecuting counsel, Anne-Marie Lawlor SC, that Mr Cheng, who was originally from China but had been in Ireland for some time, lived in sheltered accommodation at Robinson’s Court, while Doran lived about 100m away.
The trial featured CCTV footage which showed Mr Cheng returning home on April 28th, as well as coverage of the rear of his home through which Doran gained entry.
The footage showed Doran first entering the apartment at 9.59pm and staying until 11.12pm, before he left and went to his own home.
He returned to Mr Cheng’s home at 1.03am on April 29th and remained there for 11 minutes. Mr Cheng’s body was discovered the following morning by a support worker whose job it was to check up on the residents of the sheltered accommodation.
The jury also heard evidence from pathologist Dr Heidi Okkers, who said Mr Cheng suffered multiple injuries, including blunt and sharp force trauma, incision wounds and chop wounds.
He had multiple lacerations to his scalp and forehead and suffered bruises and abrasions, which were caused by an axe found adjacent to his body.
He had injuries to his forearms and hands and fractures to his forearms, which were defence injuries, the court heard. He also suffered a fracture of his left mandible, which was caused by the blunt side of the axe.
Dr Okkers said the amount of blood loss resulted in Mr Cheng’s death.
Det Gda Pender confirmed the axe used was brought by Doran from his own home, and DNA matching Doran’s was found on the handle.
Det Gda Pender said after the murder, Doran disposed of his clothing, a hammer and a crowbar, and absconded from the State. He returned to Ireland on May 4th, 2021, and was arrested on May 5th.
He made admissions to gardaí but maintained he could not recall what had happened as he had taken drink and drugs.
Det Gda Pender said Doran had 98 previous convictions, including thefts, road traffic offences, violent disorder, obstruction of a peace officer, robbery, public order offences, assault, possession of knives, and production of an article.
My father’s life was cruelly taken away, and the question I have asked is ‘why?’
A victim impact statement was prepared by Mr Cheng’s son, Jason, and read to the court by Det Gda Pender.
“My father’s life was cruelly taken away, and the question I have asked is ‘why?’ He was an elderly man going about his life. I may never know the answers. Did they have a grievance or a falling out? The fact is a man’s life was cut short. He did not deserve to have his life taken away,” Mr Cheng said.
He added that Doran had murdered his father “in a brutal way” and then returned to the scene of the crime. He said Doran and his family had made their escape the following day, “like happy families”.
“You won’t be playing happy families when the sentence is read out. Now you have pleaded guilty, now you have to pay the price for your crime. You can’t escape reality; your children will be asking ‘Where is daddy?’ – that is your reality,” Mr Cheng said.
Defence counsel Michael Bowman SC said his client had expressed his “deepest sadness and regret” for what he had done, but he had an inability to recollect what had happened. He said Doran could only offer his condolences and apologies to Mr Cheng’s family.
In sentencing, Mr Justice Keane said this was an appalling crime, and he offered his condolences to the deceased’s son and family. He said this was a “senseless” crime, especially as no meaningful motive had been established.
He said that a probation report raised a number of concerns about Doran, including his likely propensity to reoffend, his propensity for violence, his negative peer association and history of addiction, and the lack of structure in his life.
“I am required to sentence him to prison for life,” Mr Justice Keane said.
Pointing out that Doran fled the State and returned shortly afterwards, the judge commended gardaí for the thoroughness and the excellence of their investigation.
Although Doran had gone into custody on May 6th, 2021, Mr Justice Keane said bearing in mind the dreadful circumstances of the case, in which a vulnerable, elderly man in sheltered accommodation had been murdered with no motive, the life sentence would only be backdated to January 17th, 2o23, the date when Doran entered his guilty plea.