Lifer out on Licence murdered again Inquest hears

John Gogarty, left, was stabbed to death by Ian Birley and his accomplice Helen Nichols

A convicted killer went on to murder a 65-year-old property developer in South Yorkshire after being released from prison on licence at medium risk, an inquest has heard.

John Gogarty was murdered at his home address in Marsh Street, Wombwell, Barnsley, by Ian Birley in 2015.

A coroner heard on Tuesday how Birley was on licence at the time, having murdered a pensioner in 1995.

Birley, alongside his then-girlfriend Helen Nichols, stabbed Mr Gogarty 69 times.

Witnesses explained how the pair had broken into Mr Gogarty’s home and demanded his PIN before stealing his wallet and carrying out the brutal attack.

They then proceeded to withdraw £500 from his bank account – which was to be used to service a drug debt Birley had incurred – before then taking a bottle Bollinger champagne from the victim’s property and burning their clothes in a wooded area, the inquest heard.

Mr Gogarty’s body was found four days later, on July 17 2015, by his son.

The inquest was told how Birley had previously killed a man named Maurice Hoyle in 1995 and was on licence for that offence when he committed the second murder.

He was given a whole-life jail sentence at Sheffield Crown Court in 2015, while Nichols was given a minimum 20-year term, having both been convicted of Mr Gogarty’s murder.

Sheffield Coroner’s Court heard on Tuesday how the victim’s family had won the right to a full inquest so certain elements of the events leading up to Birley’s release from jail in 2013 could be considered.

Giving evidence, the victim’s daughter, Nicola Gogarty, told the inquest: “The death has obviously devastated the whole family.

“It’s been a huge trauma and of course it’s been very heard to move on from it.

“In my heart I do believe that my dad would still be here had things been done.”

Miss Gogarty told the court how she had been informed Birley had been deemed to be a “medium risk” when he was released from jail in December 2013.

Detective Sergeant Karen Whitehouse, of South Yorkshire Police, explained how the force was unaware of the killer’s release conditions and licence conditions as a probation report issued upon his release was not logged on their systems.

But it was shown a report from the National Probation Service had been sent to the force on December 13 2013, detailing Birley’s address, his supervision officer and his licence conditions – including one stating he should abstain from drinking alcohol.

Detective Chief Inspector Steve Handley, of South Yorkshire Police, led the investigation into the death of Mr Gogarty, who was originally from County Louth in Ireland, and said Birley had shown signs of being “chaotic” in the lead-up to the killing.

Speaking about the second killing, he said: “From a previous interaction with Mr Gogarty, Mr Birley was under the impression that he was a man of some means.

“At a point in time a while after this interaction, Mr Birley, under fear of a diminishing ability to gain the income to service his debt, used the information he had previously obtained to determine that that was the best opportunity available to him.”

The inquest, which is expected to last five days, continues.