A west London man appeared briefly at Willesden Magistrates Court in north London on Friday charged with the murder of a popular and much-loved Irishman Thomas O’Halloran.
Wearing a prison-issue grey tracksuit, 44-year-old Lee Byer spoke only confirm his name, his date of birth and to confirm that he had no fixed address.
He’s charged with murdering 87-year-old O’Halloran, as he drove a mobility scooter in Greenford, next to the busy A40 at around 4pm on Tuesday.
After being stabbed in the chest, the pensioner managed to drive his mobility scooter for 75 metres, until he came across members of the public who tried to help.
Despite the efforts of paramedics and the London Air Ambulance, Mr O’Halloran, originally from Ennistymon in north Clare, was pronounced dead at the scene.
Mr O’Halloran was a well-known face in the Greenford area, and would often busk outside the local Tube station.
The day after his death, police released CCTV images of a man seen running from the area around the time of the stabbing.
Within hours, detectives had a name and address and armed officers raided a property in Southall, west London.
Lee Byer was remanded in custody and will appear at the Central Criminal Court, the Old Bailey, on 23 August.
Stephen Pound, former Labour MP for Ealing North near London, said Thomas O’Halloran was like a “community king on his mobility throne”, and was the heart of the area.
Pound said he understood Mr O’Halloran, who was known as “Terry” or “Old Boy Tom” to locals in the Greenford area of west London, was raising money for Ukrainian refugees when he died.
“He was almost like the heart around which the whole of Greenford revolved and circulated because he was always there, holding court outside the cafe, or playing his accordion,” he said.. “Terry, as we called him, was always looking out to raise money for people,” Pound added.
The former MP added: “The great thing about him was he was an absolute character, in some ways he almost played up to that, that sort of cheerful Irish stereotype.”
President Michael D Higgins has expressed his ‘profound sympathy’ to the O’Halloran family.
“On behalf of the people of Ireland, may I express my profound sympathy to all the members of the family of Thomas O’Halloran who died under such tragic circumstances this week, to the Irish Community in London of whom he was a part, and to all in London and Ireland who knew him.
I can only imagine the deep shock that his family and his friends are experiencing and may I convey my heartfelt condolences to them all.
The grief that they will be feeling, I can share. It is so difficult to understand why and how such a terrible crime could occur to someone so altruistically minded and indeed cherished in his local community in Greenford.
May I pay tribute to that generosity and kindness that Thomas showed in his life, as well as to Thomas’s musical talent which he shared so freely, most recently in support of those impacted by the situation in Ukraine.
I hope that Thomas’ family and friends can draw strength from the legacy of kindness he leaves to the wider Irish community in Britain, of which he was a member for so long.
Sabina joins me in renewing our deepest condolences to all of those who loved and cared for Thomas.
May he rest in peace.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam lámhach.”