Families of Aidan Moffitt and Michael Snee describe impact of their loss following Sligo murders

Anthony Burke, who survived an attack from Yousef Palani, also spoke before the court, calling the killer a "coward and a monster".

Split screen of Aidan Moffitt and Michael Snee. On the left is Aidan, photographed in a suit and ties, smiling slightly as he looks at the camera. On the right is Michael, with a close up of his face showing him smiling with his teeth.
Image: X: @sorcgirl

Content warning: mention of violence and homophobia.

In the wake of the Sligo murders in April 2022, the families of Michael Snee and Aidan Moffitt have described the impact of their losses. The two men were brutally killed by Yousef Palani in separate incidents, with the perpetrator receiving two life sentences for the crimes, alongside a further 20 years behind bars for assault causing harm to a third man, Anthony Burke.

Speaking on behalf of the Moffitt family, Aidan’s friend Blaine Gaffney said hearing the news of his death “shocked us, hurt us and turned our worlds upside down and into utter chaos”.

“Aidan had a smile and a personality that lit up the world and his caring, generous and fun-loving nature made him a beloved presence in all our lives,” he added.

“Aidan’s wit, charm and storytelling abilities brought joy to those around him. Hearing about some of the things he got up to with his friends helped us through difficult times.

“Family was so important to Aidan. He was a son to his mother and father, Kathleen and the late Tom, a brother, an uncle, a brother-in-law, and he always kept close contact with his mother.”

Gaffney further explained that the murder has left the family in “shock” and “distress” due to the violent manner in which he was killed.

“All we are left with is questions. Why did you pick Aidan? Why was he second on your list? Why did you murder him? Why?” he asked Palani.

A victim impact statement was similarly read on behalf of Michael Snee’s nephew, Aaron Spring, who described the 58-year-old as like a father to him. Spring added that he missed him and was horrified that someone “had so much hate in them that they would do this”.

Mr Snee’s niece, Shannon McManus, remembered her uncle as “an amazing human being in many ways”.

“He was so loving, so soft, so gentle and most of all so harmless,” she added.

His sister, Martina McManus, said her brother’s life had been “taken in the cruellest way imaginable”.

“Our family’s hearts have been broken, and our grief is immeasurable,” she continued.

Also addressing the court alongside representatives of the Snee and Moffitt families, Anthony Burke, who survived an attack from Palani but lost vision in one eye as a result, said: “I have spent 49 years repressing my sexuality until I had no choice, and it became public knowledge after I was attacked largely due to my sexuality. This has placed a huge strain on me, and my family and friends, and I’ve found myself isolating more and more.

“On the night of the attack, I thought I was meeting someone to have an intimate moment with and did not realise I was going to meet a coward and a monster who was going to destroy my life.

“I’ve had feelings of sadness, guilt and shame, and the location of the attack means I have to walk the route every day and remember what happened.

“What happened has destroyed my life,” Burke concluded.

Having pled guilty to the offences in July of this year, Yousef Palani received his sentence on Monday, October 23, at the Central Criminal Court in Dublin. The crimes are said to have been motivated by “hostility and prejudice” towards gay men, and Gardaí believe he would have continued to kill had he not been arrested.

The 23-year-old is said to have used LGBTQ+ dating apps to target victims who lived alone, seeking to gain entry into their homes, tie them up and stab them to death.

While Palani initially denied any involvement, he went on to make full admissions, saying, “I don’t hate gay people. It was the voices that were controlling me”. However, Detective Garda Conor Jordan told prosecutor Lorcan Staines SC that there was no evidence to support that the man suffered from mental health issues and that the claims may have been exaggerated or fabricated entirely.

Following the sentencing, CEO of LGBT Ireland Paula Fagan expressed “deep sympathy” to the families of Aidan Moffitt and Michael Snee. “Their murders were atrocious hate crimes,” she added.

“We also express our solidarity with Anthony Burke, who was also attacked. We hope that today’s sentencing will help in the healing and grieving process for all involved,” Fagan continued.

“The murders and the attack had a significant impact on the LGBTQI+ community in Sligo, the northwest and across the island. When people are targeted because of their identity, it has a profound effect on the entire community.”

On behalf of LGBT Ireland, Fagan once again called on the Government and the Oireachtas to pass the Hate Crime Bill and to “proactively tackle hate with a national action plan”.

“This issue must be taken seriously. We need a robust response,” she expressed.

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
The Switchboard
Dublin Lesbian Line
Belong To
Pavee Point
HIV Ireland
Pieta House
Mental Health Ireland
Garda Confidential Line

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