Content warning: description of graphic violence.
Yousef Palani has been sentenced to life in prison for murdering two men and assaulting a third in separate incidents in Sligo in April 2022. The man appeared before the Central Criminal Court in Dublin on Monday, October 23, where Ms Justice Mary Ellen Ring delivered the decision.
In July of this year, Palani pled guilty to all three crimes, which are reported to have been motivated by “hostility and prejudice” towards gay men. The 23-year-old is said to have gone on a four-day spree of violence last spring, and Gardaí believe he would have continued to kill had he not been arrested.
According to reports, Palani used LGBTQ+ dating apps to target gay men who lived alone, seeking to gain entry into their homes, tie them up and stab them to death.
The first incident took place on April 9, when 50-year-old Anthony Burke was attacked. Burke, who survived the encounter, told gardaí that he had met Palani through a dating app and that the assailant had been at his house the day prior, but he did not allow him to stay over.
The pair met up again the following evening, but Burke reported becoming uncomfortable as Palani was “obsessed” with tying him up. Wanting him out of the house, Burke walked the man towards a nearby cemetery, but when he turned to go home, he was struck from behind and “saw stars”.
Palani stabbed him in the face before fleeing the scene on his bike, causing him to permanently lose vision in one eye.
On April 11, Aidan Moffitt was found dead in his home by two friends who had been concerned when they could not contact him. The 42-year-old was decapitated with his head left on the bed, his body on the floor, and his hands, with a knife placed in between them, tied behind his back. Moffitt had 94 sharp injuries, including 43 stab wounds.
CCTV footage showed a man entering and leaving the property that day in just under an hour. Gardaí were investigating the two above crimes when a second body was found.
Michael Snee was discovered by his nieces, who grew concerned after a warning was issued to people using dating apps in the area. The 58-year-old had been similarly tied up and stabbed multiple times in the head, chest and neck.
The attacks triggered a manhunt with armed officials visiting the homes of gay men in the area in an attempt to track down Palani. Helped by Anthony Burke, who could see that the suspect was still active on the app and within 500 metres of his location, Gardaí were able to find and arrest him.
While Palani initially denied any involvement, he went on to make full admissions, claiming that he heard “voices” that told him to carry out the attacks. However, Detective Garda Conor Jordan told prosecutor Lorcan Staines SC that there was no evidence to support the man’s claims of mental health issues, adding that they may have been exaggerated or fabricated entirely.
The detective also stated that there was no proof that Palani, who is Muslim, had been radicalised “despite some suggestions to the contrary”. Gardaí also praised the Islamic and immigrant communities for their assistance throughout the investigation.
At the hearing, Ms Justice Mary Ellen Ring sentenced the guilty party to life in prison for each of the Sligo murders and a further 20 years for the attack on Mr Burke, all of which will run concurrently. With her ruling, she stated that Palani had committed “unspeakable violence” against innocent men who were “cherished and valuable” members of their communities.
Addressing the media after the hearing, Emma Fitzpatrick spoke on behalf of the Snee family, saying: “Michael was a loving son, a brother, an uncle, a godparent, a brother-in-law, a friend. Michael was kind and fun, and he loved life.
“Michael lived for us, his family, and we all adored him. He’s been taken from us in the most devastating manner. We, as a family, will forever mourn his loss. Our hearts are broken, our pain immeasurable.
“We pray that no other family will ever experience the trauma that we have had to endure,” she continued.
“Today is for justice for Michael. Michael, you will forever live in our hearts.”
Speaking on behalf of the Moffitts, Solicitor William Henry said: “The family want to ensure that on this important day, Aidan is once again remembered publicly for the great person that he was and not for the events that tragically ended his life.
“Aidan had a smile and personality that lit up the world, and his caring, generous and fun-loving nature made him a beloved presence in his family and friends’ lives. Known for being a charismatic character in his community, Aidan’s wit, charm and storytelling abilities brought joy to those around him.
“His love for his country, community and fellow citizens was unwavering – a proud Rossie and true Roscommon man, he took immense pride in his home and displayed boundless affection for his country throughout his life.
“Family was so important to Aidan, and he was the best son he could be to his mother over the years, and this was witnessed by all who knew him.
“The Moffitt family are utterly devastated, lost in grief and will forever be heartbroken and empty because of what has happened and because of the fact that Aidan was taken in his prime, full of life, happiness and love.
“Aidan’s memory will live on through multiple initiatives in his communities, and he will not be forgotten by his family, friends or loved ones.”
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If you have been affected by this story or are looking to reach out to someone for support, advice or just to talk, there are numerous services available for LGBTQ+ people, listed below, and many offer instant messaging support.
National LGBT+ Helpline
Dublin Lesbian Line
Mental Health Ireland
Garda Confidential Line
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