Out of the depths of her agony, a mother pleads for a shred of empathy from the system that is about to grant comfort to the murderer of her son.
n Thursday last, Tracey Tully said she hadn’t slept for three days or three nights. On Saturday last, she received confirmation that Logan Jackson would be transferred within a month to a prison near his home in the English midlands. Last December, Jackson, from Coventry, was found guilty of the murder of Kevin Sheehy and sentenced to life in prison.
According to the website of the UK Government’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office, there is a Prisoner Transfer Agreement between the UK and Ireland. A British citizen in an Irish jail is entitled to apply for a transfer under this agreement. The website adds a cautionary note: “The authorities in the sentencing country may refuse your request … The UK authorities may also refuse your request.” It also says that “the transfer process takes approximately between 12-14 months to complete.”
Tracey Tully was stunned to hear that Jackson could be repatriated within six months of his conviction for murder in the Central Criminal Court last December. She had assumed he would be spending the next 20 years of his life in an Irish prison. She thought she could forget about him for good. She never wanted to hear his name again, never wanted to even think of him again. She just wanted to get on with the gruelling process of picking up the pieces of her life. The pain of living is unbearable as it is, she says. And now she finds herself having to fight a battle that came to her like a bolt from the blue eight days ago.
Last Thursday afternoon, Ms Tully sat at the table in the kitchen of her Limerick home and spoke of how the news had hit her like a shockwave. “I felt so lost, so frustrated, so confused on Saturday evening. And the longest day I think I ever had since this whole thing started was Sunday. I had nowhere to turn, I didn’t know where to turn.”
On Monday, her sisters rallied around. They began phoning and emailing. They contacted their local TD, Willie O’Dea, who in turn sent an email to the Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee. They began an online petition. On Tuesday, she spoke to Joe Duffy on Liveline and some other media outlets. She also emailed McEntee. “I would love to meet her,” she says, “just to state my case. I am pleading with them — please, please reconsider. Or even consider the family’s feelings, and recognise our grief.”
The family is concerned that if Jackson is repatriated, they will have no recourse to the judicial system in England. “If he goes over to his own country, we don’t know if he can appeal it over there and he could get a lesser sentence. I don’t think that they will give us any information and, I don’t know, I think my son’s life should be worth a lot more than that, just to send him [Jackson] packing after five months.”
Moreover, he committed the crime in Ireland, therefore, he should do the time in Ireland. “I think he should serve his time here, or most of his time here, that [is] my main concern, because to me it’s a luxury, it’s like he can just [have] his family and his friends visit him — we have to go to a graveyard [to visit Kevin], you know?”
Jackson is currently being held in Limerick Prison. Last week, the Department of Justice said it was “precluded from commenting on the management of sentences of individual persons.”
On the morning of the Munster hurling final in 2019, Kevin Sheehy went shopping for a Limerick jersey. He had befriended a number of the Limerick hurlers in 2017 when they turned up for sparring sessions at the St Francis club in preparation for a boxing night fundraiser.
Sheehy was on a separate sporting path. But he was making his own way in the world too. In August 2016, he won a national boxing title, the under-18 superheavyweight class. The following November, he became an Ireland international, competing at the world amateur junior championships in St Petersburg, Russia. In December 2017, he won his first adult national title, the heavyweight intermediates. In January 2018, aged 19, he won the national under-22 heavyweight title. In February, he fought in his first elite seniors final, losing to the bigger and older Kirill Afanasev.
By now, the IABA’s High Performance Unit was monitoring his progress and marking him down as one for the future. In heavyweight terms, he was still a baby, shedding the last of his teenage puppy fat and sculpting his physique into a more streamlined fighting machine. Short for a heavyweight at six foot, he was acquiring formidable power to go with his natural speed. He had figured out what he wanted to do with his young life. He wanted to be an Olympian, a champion, a holder of belts, and a role model for the boys and girls of his community. Training by day as a tiler with his father, Kevin Snr, most of his spare time was spent in the gym pumping iron or in the ring at St Francis, honing his skills with his coach, Ken Moore.
The Paris Olympics of 2024 was the long-term goal. But by 2019, he was developing so fast that he and Moore thought he should shoot for the stars and aim for Tokyo 2020. Much of 2019 was spent on a strength and conditioning programme that was bringing his power and speed on in quantum leaps. On June 21, nine days before the Munster hurling final, he won the heavyweight title at the prestigious Hull Box Cup tournament in England, beating a highly rated Scottish opponent. He came home feeling on top of the world; another landmark in his life was looming; his girlfriend Emma would give birth to their first child in a matter of weeks.
On June 30, he bought his Limerick jersey and headed to the Gaelic Grounds, where Limerick produced an emphatic victory over Tipperary. The city was in party mode that evening. Kevin was out with his first cousin Thomas Lysaght. On their way home that night, they got a text message to call into a house party on the Hyde Road. It was the early hours of Monday morning.
The man who would soon become identified as Logan Jackson was standing outside the house with a friend of his; they spoke with English accents; Jackson had a prosthetic lower limb and a pronounced limp. (His foot had been shot during a gang-related attack in Coventry some years earlier and subsequently amputated.)
At the trial last December, Thomas Lysaght said in evidence that when he and Sheehy were leaving the party, they stopped for a brief chat with the “two English guys”. Jackson, at this stage, had his top off. Kevin made some light-hearted remark about the big muscles on this fella.
Last Thursday, Tracey Tully picked up the thread of the narrative. “I can see him [Kevin] doing it and all.” She puts up her dukes in a playful shadow-boxing gesture. “You know? And he goes, ‘Aw, I’m only joking, bud, I’m only joking’. And they were laughing and they were walking away.”
Next thing, recalled Lysaght in his evidence, Jackson’s friend “flicked a fag at Kevin and Kevin started laughing.” He heard Jackson saying to his friend to get his car keys. Sheehy and Lysaght began walking home. They were on a slip road inside the main road. “I was on the footpath,” Lysaght testified. “Kevin was half and half. I heard tyres squeaking.” It was a Mitsubishi Shogun “coming fast towards me and Kevin.” It mounted the curb at speed. “It hit us and he was taken away from me by the jeep.” The car brushed his leg. “I rolled along the jeep and hit off the pillars of the wall.” He looked around and saw Kevin lying on the ground. “When I did go over to him, he couldn’t say much and I was trying to get him up, but the jeep spun around and came back towards us. I had to let Kevin go and move away. I couldn’t lift Kevin, he [Jackson] went over him a second time.” Sheehy was “dragged up the road”. A stunned Lysaght saw him lying in the middle of the road. “The jeep then turned back around, he came back up again. I took off my belt and tried to get him towards me to get him away from Kevin.” But it went over the victim a third time. “It just kept going.”
Horrified onlookers rushed to help and called an ambulance. Kevin Sheehy, aged 20, died at the scene.
“I cry every morning I wake up and I relive that morning, the first of July,” says Tracey Tully. “To me, it’s only yesterday, it’s always going to be only yesterday. I’ll cry into my pillow or I’ll cry on the phone to my sister and once that’s released, I can kind of deal with the day.”
The grief takes her down to the black fathoms where no sunlight penetrates. She says it feels like there are weights attached to her wrists and ankles that drag her down to these unknown depths. It is a realm of constant suffering. She says she haunts her own house at night, walking around in a daze, submerged in this pitiless silence. She lives with Cassidy, her daughter, born seven years after Kevin, and their dog Max.
Her daughter, her sisters and brothers, her friends and neighbours; Kevin’s father, Kevin’s friends, his boxing family: this great circle of love and support has folded itself around her. They, too, have been profoundly affected, she explains. The bomb that imploded that night generated waves of hurt that rippled out and wounded all they touched. The damage inflicted by one act of evil has reverberated from its epicentre to the edges of an entire network of people.
“I look at my sisters’ faces and it’s a haunted look,” she says. “Grief is such a haunting look, and it’s a very scary place, and I can see [it] on their faces, so I can imagine what they can see on mine, every day.”
Kevin and Emma hadn’t decided on a name for the baby that was due a month later. “But the night we brought Kevin home, that’s when we decided on the name.” Tracey had insisted on bringing his body back to her home before the funeral. They had to have the window taken out of the sitting room to bring in the coffin. “But I said if I’ve to knock down the wall, I’m bringing my son home, I need to have him home.”
In Cross’s funeral home in the city, where his body had lain in repose, his friends from St Francis built a boxing ring around the coffin and “it was amazing, it was beautiful.” On the day of his funeral the boxing community came out in their droves. Andy Lee, the most famous graduate of the St Francis club and an inspiration to Sheehy, turned up; so did many more, including Kellie Harrington.
“A lovely, lovely girl. I couldn’t really watch the [Tokyo] Olympics, but when Kellie was [fighting], oh my God, we were all supporting Kellie and screaming for Kellie and we were delighted [when she won gold]. And when Kellie was doing her interview [afterwards], I could imagine my Kevin giving an interview [like that].”
An all-round sportsman, good at soccer and rugby and a national champion in kickboxing, he ultimately chose the sweet science. It ran in the family. Tracey’s grandfather, Michael ‘Buster’ McNamara, was a well-known local pugilist; her uncles were boxers, and on the Sheehy side they were steeped in it, too. “They loved the sport, Kevin and his dad together.”
Asked if he would have become an Olympian, she replies with no hesitation: “Yes.” He was a painfully shy teenager, she says, but the more his confidence grew in the ring, the more it grew outside of it, too. “He was being primed [for it] at a very young age, and he knew what he wanted to do. It’s very rare to see a young man know [what he wants] and have all these goals at such a young age — he was very inspiring, even for me, he inspired me as his mother.”
The discipline that boxing demands from its practitioners is part of the service it renders the wider community. Well-trained amateur fighters generally make for good citizens too. They do their fighting in the ring, not on the street. On the CCTV footage that captured the incident that night, Kevin and his cousin could be seen walking away from the flashpoint with Jackson and his friend. “And it’s hard for me,” says Tracey, “because I taught him right from wrong at a very young age and I always said [to him], they’re lethal weapons now that you have in your hands [as a trained boxer]. I always said to him, if you’re ever out [and there’s trouble looming], walk away. Walk away, don’t engage. And he did. He walked away, and it kills me, it kills me every day. I’m still proud that he walked away, I’m still very, very proud that my son walked away.”
In the ring, where it mattered, he didn’t walk away. His victory at the Hull Box Cup in June of 2019 was further confirmation of his growing reputation. Ten days later, Hull Boxing Club was ordering a giant wreath that they would send over to Limerick as a mark of respect. The last photo taken of her son, she says, was the one in which he was wearing his new Limerick jersey on June 30.
Sometimes the grief and the pain are so overwhelming, “it’s like a tug of war to stay alive, to put one foot in front of the other every day. And it is one day at a time, it really is. I have no tomorrows. I don’t plan for futures, I just take it as it comes.”
On August 2, 2019 came a ray of sunshine into their shattered world. Unto Emma and Kevin was born a daughter, Kevaeh, the name her mother and grandmother settled upon the night they brought him home for the last time.
“She gives me a little bit of a will to live,” says Tracey. “And it shouldn’t be, it’s not fair on her. I mean, she was born into so much grief and she has this amazing ability to make us laugh. She has a lot of her father’s characteristics and his intelligence.”
Tracey finds some respite from the struggle in her garden. She plans to spend as much of the summer there as she can, just sitting in contemplation. Last week, she and her granddaughter were building a little fairy garden under the tree. “That was the joy I was looking forward to [before the bad news came] cos she loves little fairies and stuff.”
One day recently, when they were working on their fairy garden, a neighbour came over with his little daughter. “And I just hear the little girl saying, ‘That’s my daddy. Where’s your daddy?’ And she [replies], ‘My daddy’s in the sky.’ And aw, I just melted like, you know?”
https://www.independent.ie/sport/other-sports/boxing/i-cry-every-morning-i-wake-up-tracey-tullys-life-of-constant-suffering-since-her-boxer-son-kevin-sheehys-murder-41650705.html ‘I cry every morning I wake up’ – Tracey Tully’s life of constant suffering since her boxer son Kevin Sheehy’s murder