Dublin shop manager jailed for six years for kicking customer to death over 70c bill
Zhen Dong Zhao hit Noel Fegan on Lower Wellington Quay in Dublin in 2011
Zhen Dong Zhao (40) had pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to the manslaughter of Noel Fegan, a father of two. He kicked him to death outside the e-Times internet café and call shop on Lower Wellington Quay in Dublin city centre on May 20th, 2011.
Zhao of Jervis Street, Dublin, was originally convicted of the 39-year old’s murder and sentenced to life imprisonment in December 2012.
That conviction was overturned by the Court of Appeal earlier this year and a retrial ordered. However, the Chinese man’s plea was accepted by the State at the Central Criminal Court last month.
The court heard that Mr Fegan, a recovering heroin addict, had gone into Zhao’s shop that afternoon after receiving a “call me” text message from his 12-year-old daughter.
A row broke out between the two men over the payment of 70 cent for that call. There was a conflict between eyewitnesses about who threw the first slap.
The row erupted on to the street and part of it was caught on CCTV. The physical altercation lasted less than 10 seconds, but Zhao kicked him to the head on a number of occasions during that time.
The court heard Mr Fegan had been on the ground and “crawling away on all fours” when the final blow was delivered after a pause. One witness said the accused gave his dying victim a “two-finger salute” as he walked away.
Witnesses said that there had been “no fury or anger” in Zhao during the attack and that his demeanour was “casual”.
An autopsy found that Mr Fegan died of a subarachnoid haemorrhage caused by blunt-force trauma resulting from kicks to his head and neck.
Zhao was arrested minutes after the attack.
He admitted to gardaí that he had been “angry” after Mr Fegan had argued over payment. He said he ran after him because he “wanted to teach them not to do this again”, adding “I don’t like these types of people”.
“He lost his life over 70 cent,” he added, however. “I feel sorry for him and his family.”
Victim impact statements from members of Mr Fegan’s family were read out in court earlier this month.
Mr Fegan’s daughter, who is now 17, said her father’s death had left her heartbroken. She said her father would phone her every day.
“To this day, I cannot concentrate (in class) and think about my Dad and what his last thoughts were,” she said. “He will miss out on walking me down the aisle and crying because he is giving his little girl away, and that breaks my heart.”
His son, Adam, who was 17 at the time of the attack, said his father had missed out on several important events in his life, including sitting his Leaving Cert, taking him for his first drink, and the day he started college.
Mr Fegan’s sister, Catherine, described her brother as the “joker of the family” who was a “fantastic dad”.
Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy said yesterday (Tuesday) that sentencing was not an exercise in vengeance and that the appropriate sentence was about nine years.
He said the appropriate reduction for mitigation was three years. He imposed a six-year sentence, with an order that he receive credit for the two years and eight months he had already spent in custody.
His victim’s niece, Claudia Doyle, spoke outside following sentencing. She said the family was really disappointed and upset with the sentence her uncle’s killer had received.
“I know we’ll never get justice. Nothing’s going to bring Noel back,” she said. “It would have been easier to see him go away for a longer period of time, but I suppose we just have to deal with what happened today.”