18 years for killing widow, 90, in rage over phone

Georgina Barnett had welcomed Brogan into her home. Picture: Police Scotland
Georgina Barnett had welcomed Brogan into her home. Picture: Police Scotland
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A MAN who murdered a 90-year-old widow in a “vicious and sustained” attack in her home during a drunken rage over a broken mobile phone has been jailed for at least 18 years.

Thomas Brogan, 46, “utterly lost control” of himself when he struck vulnerable Georgina Barnett, known as Doddy, repeatedly on the head and body as she pleaded with him to stop.

The victim, who had osteoporosis, died in hospital five days after the 25 June assault, having suffered 11 fractured ribs, extensive bruising and a deep cut to the back of her head.

Unemployed Brogan last month admitted murdering Mrs Barnett, who had one daughter, at her home in Ramsay Road, Kirkcaldy, Fife. At the High Court in Edinburgh yesterday Lord Pentland jailed him for life and fixed the minimum punishment sentence at 18 years.

Brogan, a heavy drinker, had shared a litre bottle of vodka with a friend on the day of the fatal attack, which was sparked by the “trivial problem”, the court heard. Passing sentence for the “horrific” murder, Lord Pentland told the killer: “Mrs Barnett was a friend of yours and sometimes permitted you to visit her. At no time had she done you any harm. She was a somewhat frail old lady, but she managed to live independently.”

The judge said the pensioner would have been unable to defend herself.

“It is clear that you subjected Mrs Barnett to a vicious and sustained assault in the course of which you repeatedly struck her with considerable force,” he said.

“It seems clear you utterly lost control of yourself and this was caused by the fact that you had allowed yourself to become so heavily intoxicated by alcohol.” The court had heard that in the hours before the assault Brogan seemed angry with a drinking associate “in connection with a mobile phone”.

The fatal attack took place at about 8:30pm. Neighbours heard thuds from Mrs Barnett’s living room, then a loud crashing noise. They rang police, believing Brogan was fighting with a man in the flat, but were shocked to hear Mrs Barnett’s voice saying: “Tam, stop please.”

Police found Brogan at the flat with his hands covered in blood. Mrs Barnett, on the floor in the living room, had severe facial injuries and was bleeding heavily from her head. At Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy, Mrs Barnett told staff Brogan had beaten her up. She later told detectives he had come to her house drunk “looking for the boy next door” and voiced disbelief that he would do that to her “just because of that bloody sim card”.

Brogan, who has ten previous convictions at summary level, offered a public apology via his lawyer at the last hearing. His QC, Mark Stewart, told the court yesterday that the killer accepts full responsibility for his actions.

Setting the minimum time Brogan must spend behind bars, the judge, Lord Pentland, pointed to the many aggravating features of the crime – the unprovoked nature of the attack, the high level of violence involved, the fact that it was fuelled by gross alcohol consumption, the age and vulnerability of the victim and the fact that the attack took place in her own home.

Speaking outside court, Mrs Barnett’s nephew Thomas Johnstone, 62, said: “I’m happy enough at the sentence. The judge was fair enough in his comments. It was what I was looking for, and the family.”