Murder Mile UK True-Crime Podcast #113: The Last 37 Seconds of Desmond O’Beirne (Lucas Antunes & Luis Abella)
BEST TRUE-CRIME PODCAST at British Podcast Awards, The Telegraph's Top Five True-Crime Podcasts, The Guardian and TalkRadio's Podcast of the Week, Podcast Magazine's Hot 50 and iTunes Top 25. Subscribe via iTunes, Spotify, Acast, Stitcher and all podcast platforms.
Welcome to the Murder Mile UK True-Crime Podcast and audio guided walk of London's most infamous and often forgotten murder cases, set within and beyond the West End.
EPISODE ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTEEN
On Saturday 3rd June 2017 at 12:24am, in London's bustling Trafalgar Square, as 50-year-old Desmond O’Beirne was heading home after a night out in the West End, he made a very innocent and simple request from a total stranger... 37 seconds later, his life was over.
As many photos of the case are copyright protected by greedy news organisations, to view them, take a peek at my entirely legal social media accounts - Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
The location of the norther terrace of Trafalgar Square where Lukas Atunes & Luis Abella punched and kicked 50-year-old Desmond O'Beirne and where he collapsed is marked with a lime green triangle. To use the map, click it. If you want to see the other murder maps, such as Soho, King's Cross, etc, access them by clicking here.
I've also posted some photos to aid your "enjoyment" of the episode. These photos were taken by myself (copyright Murder Mile) or granted under Government License 3.0, where applicable.
SOURCES: To name but a few.
UNEDITED TRANSCRIPT OF THE EPISODE:
SCRIPT: Welcome to Murder Mile; a true-crime podcast and audio guided walk featuring many of London’s untold, unsolved and long-forgotten murders, all set within and beyond the West End.
Today’s episode is about a good decent man who was no bother to anyone when made a very innocent request from a stranger in a public place. It’s something which happens every day in every town and city, but from the moment he spoke that first word, his life was over within seconds.
Murder Mile is researched using authentic sources. It contains moments of satire, shock and grisly details. And as a dramatization of the real events, it may also feature loud and realistic sounds, so that no matter where you listen to this podcast, you’ll feel like you’re actually there.
My name is Michael, I am your tour-guide and this is Murder Mile.
Episode 113: The Last 37 Seconds of Desmond O’Beirne.
Today I’m standing in Trafalgar Square, WC2; one street south-west of the Baby Batterer of Bedfordbury, one street south of the identikit killing at the old curiosity shop, one street west of the hotel where James Forbes McCallum spent his last night of freedom before his bungled robbery of the Coach & Horses pub, and just one road west of the “justifiable homicide” of Ali Fahmy Bey - coming soon to Murder Mile.
Situated between Covent Garden, The Strand and the Houses of Parliament, Trafalgar Square is a grand public square commemorating the Battle of Trafalgar, which (like most British places) glorifies our victories and vilifies those with titles, but ignores our defeats, the true heroes or the lessons we have yet to learn.
Made famous as the site of Nelson’s Column, as well as two fountains to Admirals Jellycoe and Beatty and three plinths to a King, a General and a Major-General (whose accolades are largely forgotten having not featured recently in a Netflix series), most visitors are ignorant of its history as this is a place to pop, perch or protest. It’s where bored tourists scoff that great British delicacy – the McDonalds, grown adults climb on the London Lions like over-sugared babies, angry idiots pointlessly scream at the Police (rather than at the Politicians who are miles away in their tax-payer-funded country-retreats) and a gaggle of baffled Star Wars nerds who are shocked to see that ‘The Great Master Yoda’ floating before them wears Nike, smokes Marlboro, speaks Albanian and often engages in fist-fights with a Wookie, a Spiderman and a Harry Potter.
At the north end of Trafalgar Square is the National Gallery; a grand stone-columned Grade I listed building with a knee-high wall and a strip of grass out-front, where visitors often relax and - as a public place - they can sit in safety with their space and privacy respected. Occasionally a stranger may interact - whether to smile, apologise or to ask for a few coins - but their approach is often harmless and brief. For one man, all he asked for was a spare cigarette... nothing more... but seconds later, his life was stubbed out.
As it was here, on Saturday 3rd June 2017, that Desmond O’Beirne made a very innocent request, but while the whole world was distracted by terrorists, we forgot about the real evil which lurks within. (Interstitial)
Desmond O’Beirne was a good man, decent and kind...
Born on 27th August 1966 from solid Irish stock, Desmond grew-up in Edgware; an industrial town in the urban borough of Barnet on the outskirts of north west London, with his parents and his sister Vivienne.
As a sprawling city where a mix of wealth, class and race rub shoulders, although it is said that a person’s fame or misfortune can be decided by something as trivial as what side of which street they lived on, Desmond was blessed with a nice home, a loving family and a great start in life.
Praised as a ‘first rate student’, Desmond attended St James’ Catholic School in nearby Colindale, a school founded by Dominican sisters in 1934, and being awarded as ‘Best in his Year’ at college, he had the skills, patience and intelligence to succeed, but also the humility to not let this kind of accolade go to his head.
Described as a ‘gentle giant’, in truth he wasn’t a physically imposing man, as being just shy of six-foot-tall and only a little bit chubby (as many men are), it was his personality which made him appear larger than life. With a round sad face, sparkly blue eyes and a cheeky little grin, Desmond was harmless, peaceful and (although a little intimidating to those who didn’t know him) he was unthreatening and polite.
Raised well, he was generous with his time, money and love, so much so that his many friends saw him as the big brother they never had. But the sweet serenity of his ruddy face couldn’t hide the sadness within.
For several decades Desmond earned an honest living as an engineer, where he specialised in steel fixing, a highly skilled profession in which he fitted rebars and steel-mesh to concrete structures in and across London’s skyline. He was married, they had a son and he lived in a small flat in Pimlico, south-west London.
To be honest, there is not a lot I can tell you about 50-year-old Desmond O’Beirne, as like so many of us who live our lives, do our jobs, love our families and never aim to stand-out, shrink-down or to ruffle any feathers, he was just an ordinary man living an ordinary life who made the best of what he had...
...and (as with everyone) life could often could be unfair and cruel, so sometimes he struggled.
During the economic recession of the late 2000’s, as work dried-up and money became tight, his marriage suffered and (it is said) that he had begun to live an itinerant lifestyle. Life was difficult, but being a good, kind and polite man; he kept himself-to-himself, he was never a bother to anyone and his spirits were buoyed by one of the simple pleasures in life which he could still afford... his cigarettes.
Friday 2nd June 2017 was a warm summer evening; the night was cosy, the weather was dry and the West End was as busy as on any Friday night. With Big Ben striking midnight, Desmond merrily sauntered into the wide pedestrianised piazza of Trafalgar Square and lay on the low wall in front of the National Gallery.
Dressed in a red t-shirt, black trousers and black shoes - being a little bit tipsy - he rested for a short while on the wall. And with his home just two tube stops away, in his right hand he held a white plastic bag of fast-food to savour later. The area was busy, brightly-lit and covered by cameras and police patrols.
As a sweet gentle-giant, who was as pleasant when he was drunk as he was when he was sober, Desmond had no enemies or secrets. He never caused trouble, he didn’t pick fights, he hadn’t met anyone strange that night and he had nothing of any value. As the pubs emptied, the clubs opened and hundreds of people passed-by, all they saw was a tipsy man, snoozing on a wall, after a good night out on the bevvies.
At 12:24am, feeling that familiar urge to fill his belly, Desmond got to his feet and (with his bag of food in hand) he had begun to head home for the night, only to realise that he had ran out of cigarettes...
... 37 seconds later, the life of Desmond O’Beirne would end.
Desmond’s murder occurred within a few feet of several witnesses in a well-lit public place, the suspects were easily seen and the CCTV footage of those tragic few seconds were so upsetting that they caused an outrage. And yet, Desmond’s killers wouldn’t be brought to justice for more than a year. But why?
As with every cowardly criminal; they hid, they lied, they fled and they were protected by their loved ones, but more importantly the attention of the press and the people were focussed elsewhere when Desmond was murdered, which made the case next-to-impossible to solve with the speed that his family deserved.
In the years, months and weeks leading up to his murder, Britain was rocked by a series of terrorist attacks by home-grown fanatics, which had raised the UK Threat Level from ‘Substantial’ to ‘Severe’;
Every incident was a tragic loss of life, but with Desmond’s attack having only just hit the newspapers, when the detectives and Desmond’s family urgently needed the help of the public to identify the suspects seen on CCTV, our attention was focussed on London Bridge, two and half miles east of Trafalgar Square.
In that instance, during those first 24-hours and the most crucial stage of the investigation, almost no-one cared about a fifty-year-old man who the papers said had been “drinking” and was cruelly described – not as a husband, a father or even an engineer – but as a ‘vagrant’ and a ‘tramp’. It was as if his life was worth less than any of the others... and in the blink of an eye, Desmond was forgotten and his killers vanished.
Only, his death wasn’t at the hands of a deluded terrorist, an escaped maniac or a vengeful rival, but from something a lot closer-to-home... and he wouldn’t meet his killers until seconds before his tragic end.
We often forgot that evil can appear in many forms, sometimes as the epitome of rage, hate or vengeance, and other times it can appear as arrogance, innocence and stupidity.
Lukas Antunes & Luis Abella were two young men living their ordinary lives in London. Unlike so many of London’s lost wastrels - who are demonised as ‘feral youths’ spawned in an uncaring home to a bankrupt culture who are obsessed with knives, respect and status - these two you could happily pass in the street without a glance or gulp. As they weren’t ruffians, thugs or troublemakers, they were just two clean-cut young men with regular jobs, a disposable income and no responsibilities, except to enjoy their social life.
Aged 22, Lukas Antunes was a Brazilian national on an Italian passport who had previously lived in North America (hence his accent). Described as a little bit cocky and vain, as a stocky but well-built lad who loved to work-out at the gym, Lukas believed that he was a real lady’s man. Always being immaculately groomed with flawless skin, a tidy stubble and an arrogant swagger, Lukas would post pictures of his shirtless torso online as he flexed like a young Adonis. To some, he was nothing but a brash bullshitter with a fiery temper (all of which hid his insecurities), but to others, he exuded a confidence which reigns supreme in today’s media obsessed age. So, although he strived to be unique, he was no different to many other young men.
And whereas Lukas would lead, Luis would follow.
Also aged 22, Luis Abella was more like a baby-faced version of Lukas who lived with mum in a Stockwell flat. Similarly described as fashion-conscious, well-groomed and clean-cut, Luis was smaller and thinner, with a quieter voice, a stylish ice-cream swirl of dark black hair on his head and a boyish hint at a moustache as if he had coloured it in with a pencil – hence (it was said) he lived in his best pal’s shadow.
They may not sound like a pack of callous killers and that’s because they weren’t. Regardless of their flaws (which all of us have), they were just two ordinary young men living their ordinary little lives in a big city.
Hired by an agency called Buzz Retail, Lukas & Luis were a key-part of a high-energy group of young men and women who – all day - would confidently demonstrate the latest gadgets - hailed as “the most exciting toys in the world” - in London’s most prestigious toy-stores such as Hamley’s, Selfridges and Harrods.
During the warm summer’s day of Friday 2nd June 2017 - which was a day no different to any other, except for a heightened security on the streets and a fear that anyone of us could be the next victim of terrorists - as Lukas & Luis skilfully played and proudly boasted the merits of each toy in the Harrods toy department – whether a puzzle, a mini-drone, a remote-controlled car, or (the ‘must have toy of 2017’ – the fidget spinner) – having finished their shift at 7pm; they dressed, styled and sauntered out into the West End.
In a small group of friends, colleagues and cousins, they caught the Piccadilly Line from Knightsbridge to Leicester Square and blended in with the night-time revellers. There they drank, smoked and chatted, just like everyone else who was waving goodbye to the working week and seeing in the weekend in style.
Later, identified by the Police only as Male #1, in the CCTV footage Lukas was seen wearing a red t-shirt, black jeans and white trainers. With Luis, identified only as Male #2, in dark jeans, white trainers and a black jacket with a large white F on the back. They weren’t disguised in any way, as anyone who had planned to commit a murder would, and that’s because the thought had never crossed their minds.
At 12:24am, as the pubs emptied, the clubs opened and hundreds of people passed-by, fifty-feet away a tipsy man lay snoozing on a wall after a good night out on the bevvies.... but they didn’t see, speak or even acknowledge him – and why should they – as their sole priority that night was which venue to go to next.
Luis was chatting to his pals, Lukas was on his phone, and – with a plastic bag of fast-food in his hand and his stomach growling - Desmond O’Beirne slowly stirred from his slumber on that warm summer night.
Lukas and Luis had never met Desmond before, and as the merry man rose to his feet and begun to head home after a nice night out, it was then that Desmond realised that he had ran out of cigarettes...
...37 seconds later, the life of Desmond O’Beirne would end at the hands of Lukas & Luis.
Feeling a little rumbly about his belly and a touch rosier around his cheeks, as Desmond staggered to his feet, he knew that – after a few pints – his body craved that last hit of nicotine before his bedtime. Sadly, his packet was empty as his pockets, and as the good old days were long gone when even a kid could buy a ciggie for 10p from a newsagent, a common practice among many smokers is simply to ask a stranger. They might say no, but if you’re polite enough, they usually say yes. And Desmond was always polite.
(Ticking) 12:24am and 1 second. Desmond sees a clean-cut group of young men and women standing fifty feet away at the back of the George IV statue, they’re laughing, chatting and one of them is smoking. The Square is moderately busy, but at that moment, this group are the nearest and they seem nice enough.
(Ticking) 12:24am and 5 seconds. Focussed only on getting one last smoke to see himself home, Desmond collected his things as a Police patrol headed north to yet another urinating, puking or abusive idiot who couldn’t hold their drink, but right then, Desmond wasn’t worried, as this was his city where he felt safe.
(Ticking) 12:24am and 10 seconds. Seeing the group standing at the lip of the curved wall - knowing that as a ‘gentle giant’ he may appear a little intimidating to those who didn’t know him - Desmond pacified any fears with his cheeky smile, his twinkling blue eyes and a walk which (if a little unsteady) was calm and slow so as not to spook the group, as he passed two concrete bollards and an old fashioned lamppost.
(Ticking) 12:24am and 22 seconds. As he neared the group, Desmond made a bee-line passed two girls and four men including Luis, and headed straight to Lukas who was on his phone and smoking a cigarette. As always, Desmond was the epitome of sweet, kind and polite... but what Lukas saw was a ruddy-faced stumbling drunk, who smelt of drink, was begging for ciggies and was rudely interrupting his call.
In court, Lukas & Luis claimed that Desmond had threatened to “shank them”, to stab them, a piece of prison slang this sweet man never used and his demeanour in the footage showed no aggression at all.
(Ticking) 12:24am and 30 seconds. Just eight seconds later, that’s barely enough time for Desmond say “hello” to this stranger, to ask for a cigarette and to be told “no” by Lukas, but as what was said was never recorded and both men were outside of the security camera’s frame, what happened next is unknown.
Seven seconds later, the life of Desmond O’Beirne would end.
(Ticking) 12:24am and 32 seconds. Startled by something or someone, fearing for his safety, Desmond quickly turns his back on Lukas and (with his bag in his hand) he briskly walks away towards the bollards.
(Ticking) 12:24am and 33 seconds. Terrified that the thing which had startled him had escalated, without saying a word or making a gesture in retaliation, Desmond began to run as if his life depended on it.
(Ticking) 12:24am and 34 seconds. Being fifty, overweight and drunk, Desmond had only managed to run a few feet before the younger, fitter and more powerfully-built Lukas had started to chase him down.
(Ticking) 12:24am and 35 seconds. Sprinting from behind, as he swung his right arm far behind his back to maximise the power of his attack, Lukas swung his thick hard fist fast into the side of his victim’s head, and in a swift single punch, he knocked Desmond out cold. Being unconscious and unable to break his own fall, the fifteen-stone father-of-one hit the concrete slabs hard with his head and chest, as the speed of his run caused his limp body to briefly slid across the stone and come to rest by a concrete bollard.
Only, even as Desmond lay silent and motionless on the hard-cold stone, the attack didn’t stop there.
(Ticking) 12:24am and 37 seconds. Never questioning the reason for this viscous attack, Luis was already in pursuit, so by the time that Desmond had been floored by a fast fist – with a flying kick - Luis savagely booted the limp man’s body with a ferocity so hard that Desmond’s whole body bucked with the force.
And then, as Desmond lay silent and helpless, both Lukas and Luis strutted away with a cocky swagger. Not for a single second did they stop to see if he was okay, or even to call for an ambulance. And although one of their party was seen staring in disbelief at this unconscious man who was profusely bleeding from his head, Lukas barked at his pals to “come on” and - with that - they all disappear into the night.
Passers-by stopped to film the collapsed man with their phones (and possibly they captured his attackers too) but no-one shared the footage with the Police and only one person called for an ambulance.
Paramedics arrived at the scene a few minutes later, but he was unresponsive having suffered a traumatic brain injury as well as nine fractured ribs. Being listed as ‘critical’, he underwent an emergency operation at St Thomas’ Hospital with screws fitted to hold his skull in place, but his injuries had left him in a coma.
That night, as London Bridge was attacked by terrorists, the press turned away, the public lost interest, Desmond was forgotten, eye-witnesses walked away and Lukas & Luis vanished.
Transferred to the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, Desmond’s sister Vivienne later said “I couldn’t recognise my brother and unfortunately he couldn’t recognise me, there was no communication skills, he was in a vegetative state”. 51-year-old Desmond O’Beirne, the married father-of-one lay in a coma for six months, but having contracted pneumonia, he died on 20th December 2017. Vivienne: “my brother was hard-working and larger than life. He was on a night out in Trafalgar Square when he was brutally and viscously attacked by two cowards who then calmly walked away and left him for dead”. (End)
Aided by a grainy piece of footage, statements from a few (but not all of the) witnesses and a Red Bull can with the fingerprints of two unknown suspects, the police were at a loss who his attackers were, but were unwilling to bring the case to a close until justice had been done for Desmond.
On 10th April 2018, at a press conference, DCI Noel McHugh of the Met Police made this appeal; “you may have been part of the group and did not realise how seriously Desmond was hurt and that he has now died. That may pray on your mind. You can contact us and help us get justice”. It was a long shot which could have resulted in nothing, but sometimes a good person in a difficult situation can do the right thing.
An unidentified cousin later stated that Lukas had “bragged about how he had taken him out with a single punch, he seemed proud of it, but after a few days he stopped talking about it and asked us to do likewise”.
As Lukas had fled to America, with the assistance of the US Marshalls, the Met Police conducted a joint arrest on 15th August 2018. Luis charged that day, but having gone into hiding, Lukas was later arrested in Alabama and extradited to the UK. Tried separately at the Old Bailey on the 14th and 21st of December 2018 - as first-time offenders who were found guilty of the lesser charges of manslaughter and actual bodily harm - Lukas Antunes was sentenced to just three years and nine months in prison with Luis’ three-years suspended for two. In all likelihood – given good behaviour – they may already have been released.
Desmond O’Beirne was a good man, who wasn’t being a bother to anyone when he made a very simple and innocent request of a stranger. 37 seconds later, his life ended and all because he asked for a cigarette.
OUTRO: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for listening to Murder Mile.
Up next, we have some extra details about this case, as well as some waffle about biscuits and tea. So, if this is your thing, pop on a brew right now and join me for a slightly one-sided chinwag
Before that, a big thank you to my new Patreon supporter who is Karen Ann Chalupnik, I thank you very much, as well as a thank you to all the new lovely reviews you lovely people have been posting. I really do read them all and they are very much appreciated.
Murder Mile was researched, written and performed by myself, with the main musical themes written and performed by Erik Stein & Jon Boux of Cult With No Name.
Thank you for listening and sleep well.
*** LEGAL DISCLAIMER
The Murder Mile UK True Crime Podcast has been researched using the original declassified police investigation files, court records, press reports and as many authentic sources as possible, which are freely available in the public domain, including eye-witness testimony, confessions, autopsy reports, first-hand accounts and independent investigation, where possible. But these documents are only as accurate as those recounting them and recording them, and are always incomplete or full of opinion rather than fact, therefore mistakes and misrepresentations can be made. As stated at the beginning of each episode (and as is clear by the way it is presented) Murder Mile UK True Crime Podcast is a 'dramatisation' of the events and not a documentary, therefore a certain amount of dramatic licence, selective characterisation and story-telling (within logical reason and based on extensive research) has been taken to create a fuller picture. It is not a full and complete representation of the case, the people or the investigation, and therefore should not be taken as such. It is also often (for the sake of clarity, speed and the drama) presented from a single person's perspective, usually (but not exclusively) the victim's, and therefore it will contain a certain level of bias and opinion to get across this single perspective, which may not be the overall opinion of those involved or associated. Murder Mile is just one possible retelling of each case. Murder Mile does not set out to cause any harm or distress to those involved, and those who listen to the podcast or read the transcripts provided should be aware that by accessing anything created by Murder Mile (or any source related to any each) that they may discover some details about a person, an incident or the police investigation itself, that they were unaware of.
*** LEGAL DISCLAIMER
Michael J Buchanan-Dunne is a writer, crime historian, podcaster and tour-guide who runs Murder Mile Walks, a guided tour of Soho’s most notorious murder cases, hailed as “one of the top ten curious, quirky, unusual and different things to do in London”, nominated "one of the best true-crime podcasts at the British Podcast Awards", one of The Telegraph's top five true-crime podcasts and featuring 12 murderers, including 3 serial killers, across 15 locations, totaling 50 deaths, over just a one mile walk.
Michael J Buchanan-Dunne is a crime writer, podcaster of Murder Mile UK True Crime and creator of true-crime TV series.
Subscribe to the Murder Mile true-crime podcast
Note: This blog contains only licence-free images or photos shot by myself in compliance with UK & EU copyright laws. If any image breaches these laws, blame Google Images.