Gardaí believe an eastern European homeless man was beaten to death after remonstrating with a youth who had stolen his mobile phone.
A 16-year-old boy has been detained and is currently being interviewed by gardaí. He was arrested after his 17-year-old friend presented himself to gardaí and said he had witnessed the victim being beaten to death in the Kilmainham area of Dublin in the early hours of Monday morning.
Gardaí are “reasonably certain” they have identified the victim and are attempting to track down his family in eastern Europe to inform them of the death, a source said.
The victim, who is aged in his 40s, had been living in Ireland for several years and was in contact with homeless services here. He had been sleeping rough in recent months.
“He would have availed of our services most nights of the week” said Tony Walsh of Feed the Homeless. “He was a very respectful man. Very polite.
“It was very sad to hear the news this morning. The loss of life on the streets is always a tragedy but particularly in this case.”
The suspected attacker had been living in residential care in the Dublin area and has had contact with the Garda in the past.
Investigators are still trying to piece together the exact sequence of events leading to the man’s death. It is believe a group of youths were in the Kilmainham area late on Sunday and that one of them stole a phone from the victim who had been sleeping rough in a laneway.
The youth may have then left the scene before returning and engaging in a verbal argument with the victim. The teen then allegedly beat the man to death with his fists and by kicking him. “We don’t think there was any weapon involved. It was done with his bare hands.” a source said.
Another teenager who witnessed the assault went to gardaí and the 16-year-old suspect was arrested a short time later.
The man’s body was found on Madison Road in the early hours of Monday morning. Gardaí were alerted to the incident at about 1.30am.
The laneway is parallel to the South Circular Road and runs between Madison Road and Mayfield Road, two rows of red-bricked houses. Both ends of it were sealed off on Monday morning. A bouquet of flowers was left close to the Mayfield Road entrance.
Gardaí have opened an murder investigation and established an incident room at Kevin Street Garda station.
The youth is being detained under Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act 1984 and can be questioned for up to 24 hours.
Forensic examination of the scene is continuing and a post-mortem on the victim is due to take place shortly.
Gardaí say they are following a definite line of inquiry. They are appealing for witnesses, particularly anyone who was in the Madison Lane area between the hours of 11pm and 2am, to contact them at Kevin Street on 01 666 9400 or the Garda Confidential Line on 1800 666 111.
There has been a spike in homeless deaths in Ireland this year, despite fewer numbers sleeping on the streets during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
Thirty two homeless people have died so far in 2020, including ten deaths in July alone.
There is no official count for the number of rough sleepers in Dublin, as counting by the Dublin Region Homeless Executive was suspended due to the pandemic. However the Simon Community’s Street Outreach Service said it dealt with 110 individuals last month while Feed the Homeless said it was helping up to 120 people a night in Dublin.
People need “safe beds”, Mr Walsh said. “we seeing an really dramatic increase again in the numbers of people sleeping out on the streets at night.”
He called for an overhaul of the DHRE’s rough sleeper helpline to ensure “no one who needs a bed is turned away.”