Updated: 20/04/17 : 05:27:08
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Sligo man apologises live on air over killing of stranger

A Sligo man who stabbed a stranger to death 30 years ago apologised to the victim’s family yesterday on live radio saying he would do anything to undo “that moment of madness”.

Richard Kelly was on RTÉ One’s Liveline speaking about his actions 30 years ago which led to the death of John Fox.

Tipperary man John Fox was enjoying a night out with friends in Sligo town on March 1, 1987 when he was stabbed in the back by Richard Kelly.

It was a Saturday night, and Kelly (49) claimed he was carrying the knife for hunting when he and friends became embroiled in an argument with another group of young men including Mr Fox (23).

Kelly was sentenced to ten years in prison for manslaughter and he was released after six-and-half years.

In an letter to Sligo Today last week Richard Kelly said, "In no way am I making excuses or in any way condoning what happened that night in Sligo, what happened was a terrible tragedy.  Please understand I was 18 years of age, very immature, extremely stupid, and very careless, under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

"My friends and I carried knives on that Saturday night because we thought it was a cool thing to do. 

"We had seen the movie Crocodile Dundee and thought we would emulate the movie. Now as a mature man I know it sounds ridiculous, but this was the eighties and movies like Crocodile Dundee were socially acceptable.  In our eyes carrying a hunting knife was a cool joke.  I never in a million years expected to stab someone to death with it, what happened that night should never have happened.  

"If I could turn back time, if I could have John Fox back with his family again, I would make it happen in a heartbeat.  It is a terrible thing to realise, to know you ended someone’s life.  Humans are supposed to be makers of life, givers of life, not takers of life.  I do fully understand and accept taking a life is a crime against man and nature."

"The incident should never have happened but the incident did not happen because of unusual accents.  I have to be mindful of the Fox family’s feelings, but there was some provocation from the Tipperary lads.  In the cold light of day the provocation was over very very minor stuff, name calling etc.  To a normal right thinking rational human being the provocation was very minor stuff.  To uneducated proud immature young men, having consumed copious amounts of alcohol and some drugs, not thinking rationally, on that fateful night, name calling was enough to provoke a reaction."

On the 30th anniversary of John's death last month, the victim's brother Declan Fox went on Liveline on RTÉ Radio One to say Kelly never contacted them and he thought he'd forgotten about them.

Declan Fox said: "We've all been murdered, we were a normal family, we all got on well, we worked, we'd play sports and then that night he murdered us all.

Yesterday, Richard Kelly told host radio Joe Duffy he's still living with the crime.

"I can’t undo what happened but if I can stop one young man from carrying a knife it would be worth it," he said

When asked about not contacting the Fox family, he said: "I did not want to cause any more distress to Mrs Fox or her family.

However in is letter to Sligo Today, Richard Kelly said, "My father apologised on behalf of my family and I, I apologised on behalf of myself but the Fox family did not accept my apology, which is absolutely understandable and within their remit.

He continued, "I Richard Kelly am immensely remorseful, I sincerely wish the incident never took place, I am always mindful of the hurt I caused to the Fox family and the profound impact the loss of John had to Johns Mother, Father and brothers and sister.  I wish John Fox was still with us today, for his sake and for the sake of his loved ones.

"The other lads and I, our families and all our extended families, and friends were/are heartbroken for Mr Fox and the Fox family and their family and friends.  This whole incident was such a sad affair for all involved, but of course more so for Mr Fox and his family and this point shall never be forgotten by me.

"Mr John Fox’s memory and that faithful night will stay with me till the day I die.  I am haunted by that night, and rightly so.

"I miss him, I know I took a piece of humanity that night and in a way I lost a piece of myself too."

Argument

Richard Kelly told Liveline yesterday that he was intoxicated on the night but can't remember if he had taken drugs.

"We were having a laugh on our way home when we got into an argument with another group of lads and yes Joe unfortunately that's what happened. And sadly a lad lost his life because of my actions."

Kelly said he can't remember what happened on the night but he did recall the moment he learned that Mr Fox had died.

"I saw the blood after it but I didn't realise that the young lad had been stabbed," he said insisting that it was not murder.

Kelly was arrested a short time later: "One of the police officers put his head around the door and as coldly and as coarsely as this he said, 'you're f**ked now Kelly that young lad is dead'. That was what was said to me."

'Dignified family'

He also spoke candidly about how he thinks victims' families should have a greater say in sentencing and that remission should be earned by prisoners, not given.

Speaking of his the guilt, he said: "There's not a day I don't think of his mum, a very strong woman with a dignified family.

"I sat in court and looked at John Fox's mum crying, my heart went out to that lady, I seen her son and her daughters sitting there, very strong people even though they could have been very vindictive towards me.

"I was looking at that lady and was thinking about how a couple of months before I had lost my own mum and now she had lost her son because of me, it's a very hard thing to live with."

After he was convicted of manslaughter, Richard Kelly served time in several prisons, including Mountjoy, Wheatfield and Portlaoise.

He said: "Prison is four walls, it affected me in my mind, I'm still doing my life sentence.

"I'm not trying to equate it to the Fox family's life sentence but I want them to know I haven't forgotten their brother, I wish he was still here."