John Frog Ward was a violent criminal who had been involved in beating up old people in Mayo, breaking into their houses and robbing them. He was a drug addict and an alcoholic, in the habit of attacking with a sword those he perceived to be his enemies. He suffered from delusions and heard voices in his head. He attacked Gardai with a slash-hook on two occasions. He had over 80 convictions for robbery and assault. He was an accomplished bare-knuckle boxer.
This man came to Padraig Nally’s house with his son. Padraig Nally was a single farmer in his sixties who had never committed an offence in his life. Recently, he had suffered a number of thefts from his house, and he was frightened because he knew of three older people who had died in the vicinity after being assaulted and tortured by burglars.
He got his single-barrelled shotgun, and challenged John Frog Ward, who was attempting to open the back door of the house. Frog Ward stood up to attack Padraig Nally, and the farmer shot him. Frog Ward was a tough man and continued the attack. Nally then hit him repeatedly with a length of wood. At his trial, Nally said, in his countryman’s language, that it was like beating a badger and the Dublin jury failed to grasp his meaning, which was simply that he couldn’t knock his adversary down.
As Frog Ward crawled away, Nally went back to his shed and got another cartridge, which he placed in the shotgun. He returned and shot Ward a second time, killing him. He then hoisted the body over a wall. It was either me or him, he told his trial, meaning that he believed Frog Ward would return with his associates and kill him.
Much has been made of Nally’s reloading the gun, and this leads me to ask only one question:
Does this mean that Padraig Nally’s big mistake was to own a single-barrelled shotgun?