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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Anthony France

Greenford: Man appears in court over murder of pensioner stabbed to death on mobility scooter

A man appeared in court on Friday charged with the murder of 87-year-old Thomas O’Halloran who was stabbed to death on his mobility scooter.

Armed police arrested Lee Byer, 44, at a house on Allenby Road, Southall, west London, at around 1.30am on Thursday.

Byer appeared at Willesden magistrates’ court this morning amid tight security wearing grey prison-issue tracksuit bottoms and T-shirt, with a sweater tied around his waist.

He spoke only to confirm his name, date of birth and that he was of no fixed abode.

Byer was not asked to enter pleas to charges of murder and possession of an offensive weapon — a large knife — and was remanded in custody by Deputy District Judge Ross Cohen ahead of his next appearance at the Old Bailey on Tuesday.

Grandfather Mr O’Halloran, a “much-loved” busker who played his accordion to raise money for Ukraine, was brutally attacked in nearby Greenford on Tuesday afternoon.

On Thursday night more than 100 residents packed into a Greenford community centre for a meeting with police about local safety. They were told that extra patrols in the area would be in place for a week.

Court sketch of Lee Byer who is accused of the murder of Thomas O’Halloran (PA)

However, residents raised concerns about drug dealing and anti-social behaviour, with some claiming their complaints had been ignored. One local, Naqib Yahya, said: “Why does it take someone to be stabbed to have extra patrols?”

Police believe Mr O’Halloran was stabbed in Western Avenue before managing to travel about 75 yards on his scooter to Runnymede Gardens. Footage shows him begging for help from passers-by moments after he was attacked.

Retired engineer Mr O’Halloran was a popular Irish busker who played classical tunes on his accordion. He had spent Tuesday afternoon busking outside a Tesco in Perivale, raising money for victims of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Flowers outside Perivale Tesco, Greenford, where 87-year-old Thomas O’Halloran who was fatally stabbed used to play his accordion (Ronaldo Butrus/PA) (PA Media)

But he was then ambushed next to the A40 as he headed towards Greenford station, a mile away. His mobility scooter carried a blue charity collection basket bound with yellow tape to represent the Ukrainian flag and the words: “Support Ukraine against Russia”.

The killing was the sixth in four days in London and the 67th homicide investigation launched by the Met since January. The British Transport and City of London forces are investigating two further killings.

Mr O’Halloran was originally from Ennistymon, County Clare, on the west coast of Ireland. Mr O’Halloran, his daughter Jeanne and grandson Tommy moved to their current address in Greenford about 15 years ago where locals said he was “the grandfather of the street”.

He is survived by family including a sister and two brothers. Granddaughter Cindy O’Neill, 37, of Westgate-on-Sea in Kent, told the Telegraph: “He was a lovely person. We are in a state of shock. It’s terrible. I can’t think straight.”

Linda O’Halloran, one of his nieces in Ennistymon, said the family was finding it impossible to process what had happened. “We’re the most open-hearted, but this is very hard for my parents,” she said. “It’s very raw. They’re trying to come to terms with it.”

Martin Conway said Mr O’Halloran had visited Ireland regularly and his death had left the community in Ennistymon in “deep shock and sadness”.

Former Labour MP Stephen Pound paid tribute to his ex-constituent, saying “Tom was a real local character” and a “sweet, lovely man”.

The latest spate of killings started with the death of Kacey Boothe, 25, who was shot outside a first birthday party in Walthamstow on Saturday night. The following day, Stephen Goodman, 60, died in a fight in Dagenham, then Sonny Booty, 36, was found dead in a house in Lewisham. On Monday, Li Sung, 58, was stabbed to death at a Korean restaurant in Soho before dinner lady Aziza Bennis, 58, suffered fatal knife wounds in Acton.

Mayor Sadiq Khan today insisted that London is a safe city, but he had “one hand tied behind my back” in efforts to combat a spate of violence.

He said: “One homicide is a homicide too many, and one victim of crime is one victim too many but I feel like over the last six years I’ve had one hand tied behind my back because of austerity.”

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