A 44-year-old man has been charged with the murder of 87-year-old Thomas O’Halloran on a mobility scooter in west London.
Lee Byer was remanded in custody after appearing at Willesden Magistrates’ Court charged with the murder of the pensioner in Greenford.
Byer wore a grey prison tracksuit and sat expressionless in the dock during the five-minute hearing. He did not speak except to confirm his name, date of birth and address, which was given as no fixed abode.
The legal adviser to the judge read the two charges to Byer and said the case was “too serious” to be dealt with by the magistrates’ court.
The charges were murder and possession of an offensive weapon, a “large knife”, the adviser said.
Louise Ahmad, prosecuting, told the court: “This was a vicious attack on an 87-year-old grandfather who was known throughout the local community.
“It led to him collapsing from his motor scooter. He was stabbed in the chest and found by members of the public.”
Malik Aldeiri, defending, did not make any representations, and no indication of plea was entered.
Deputy District Judge Ross Cohen told Byer: “This is a matter that this court has no power to deal with.”
A bail application hearing will take place at the Old Bailey on Aug 23. It is not yet known whether Byer will attend. A plea and trial preparation hearing will be at the Old Bailey on Sep 16.
Mr O’Halloran, originally from Ennistymon, in the west of Ireland, was a musician and often busked for charity. He was a popular figure in the area.
There has been anger over his death, with Greenford residents demanding to know “where all the police officers have gone” at a community meeting on Thursday evening. The meeting, hosted by the Metropolitan Police, was intended to ease fears after the stabbing.
One resident said: “More and more, we are hearing about the elderly being targeted. We hear about people being surrounded by groups who try to take money from them. Some fight back, others don’t. There are no police stations for us to go to – they are all closing.”
Mr O’Halloran, who moved to London from the west coast of Ireland at the age of 17, was described as a “lovely person” by his family, who are struggling to come to terms with his death.
One of 16 children, he was among the thousands of young Irish men and women who travelled to Britain after the war looking for work. After settling in London he is understood to have worked several jobs, at one stage as a caretaker.
Linda O’Halloran, one of the pensioner’s nieces in Ennistymon, Ireland, said the family was finding it “very hard” to process his death.
“We’re the most open-hearted people, but this is very hard for my parents,” she told The Telegraph. “It’s very raw and they’re trying to come to terms with it.”
The Irish president paid tribute to the "generosity and kindness" of Mr O'Halloran on Friday,
In a statement President Michael D Higgins described the pensioner “as cherished in his local community in Greenford".
He said: "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.”