Why was brutal and remorseless murderer Ian Birley freed to kill another pensioner?

Twenty years and four miles separate the two appalling murders carried out by Ian Birley of pensioners in their own homes.

The scene of John Gogarty's murder in Wombwell
The scene of John Gogarty's murder in Wombwell

Back in 1995, Birley, then in his early 20s, murdered retired brewery clerk Maurice Hoyle by bludgeoning him with a whiskey bottle before stamping on his head at the home of the 69-year-old on Belgrave Road in Barnsley.

Government report kept secret to protect double killers' 'personal data'Mr Hoyle suffered 42 external injuries in the horrifying attack, including a fractured nose, cheek bones and eye sockets. He died as a result of his dentures breaking and a piece being lodged in his windpipe.

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Leaving Mr Hoyle to die, Birley then stole items from his house, including a watch.

Ian Birley committed a second murder after being released from jail in 2015

At a trial at Sheffield Crown Court the following year, Birley pleaded guilty to manslaughter but denied murder. He claimed that Mr Hoyle, who was gay, had invited him back to the house to watch a pornographic video and then attempted to kiss him. Birley said he attacked as he feared he would be raped but admitted during the case he had been in a “frenzy”.

“I snapped and lost control and kicked him in the face a lot of times,” he said.

The jury found him guilty of murder and Birley was sentenced to life in prison.

But in December 2013, Birley was released from jail on licence. Just 18 months later he would kill again in chillingly similar circumstances.

The devastated family of John Gogarty listen to a police officer read a statement on their behalf outside Sheffield Crown Court in 2015

Unlike Mr Hoyle, the killing of John Gogarty at the 65-year-old’s house on Marsh Street in Wombwell in July 2015, just four miles from the site of the first murder two decades before, appeared to have been premeditated as part of a robbery carried out by Birley so he could steal money and goods to pay back a debt he owed to a Sheffield drug dealer for crack cocaine.

The second killing was carried out by Birley and his girlfriend and fellow drug user Helen Nichols, with the victim being stabbed 69 times by Birley.

The Irish-born Mr Gogarty was attacked on his doorstep and the couple got him to hand over his bank card and tell them his PIN number before Nichols went to a nearby cash machine and took out £500 before returning to the property.

Birley then stabbed Mr Gogarty repeatedly as he lay on the floor. Some of the blows were so strong, they cut through the bone of the property developer’s ribs.

Ian Birley committed a second murder after being released from jail in 2015

After leaving Mr Gogarty’s body in the living room, the heartless pair stole further items from his house including expensive watches and even a bottle of champagne they later drank at their flat.

The jury in the second trial was not told about the first murder after lawyers for Birley successfully argued he would not be able to receive a fair trial if they were informed.

But the trial did hear that a former girlfriend of Birley’s had been Mr Gogarty’s cleaner – resulting in him knowing where his victim lived and leading to the robbery plot.

After Birley, along with Nichols, was found guilty of murder, the judge in the case said he would never be allowed to leave prison again.

The devastated family of John Gogarty listen to a police officer read a statement on their behalf outside Sheffield Crown Court in 2015

Last month, Mr Gogarty’s family won the right for an inquest to be heard into the circumstances of Birley’s release from prison in 2013 and how the Probation Service handled his return to the community after saying they still did not have the “full picture” into how he was allowed to be released.

The date of the inquest is yet to be agreed but is expected to take place later this year.

Mr Gogarty’s daughter Nicola said: “We are delighted that a coroner has granted us the chance of a full inquest into my father’s death. I look forward to hearing the truth about the failings that led to convicted killer Ian Birley murdering my father.”

Family advised not to view body of victim

The family of John Gogarty were advised not to view his body following his murder because of the extent of his injuries.

Mr Gogarty’s body was discovered by his son four days after his death.

His daughter Nicola told Sheffield Crown Court the rest of the family were advised not to see his body as “to do so would cause us even more distress”.