THE family of Mayo man Thomas Kennedy has paid tribute to the “gentle and kind” musician after he was “attacked and thrown unconscious into a river” in Georgia.
Mr Kennedy was killed by a gang of five men in a robbery gone wrong, and was thrown into a river alive after they believed he was dead, a court has heard.
The talented singer/songwriter, 28, was on holiday in Georgia when he was invited to have a drink with the group of men.
However three days later Thomas, originally from Lahardaun, Co Mayo was found washed up in the Mtkvari river near Gori.
Today all five men who were arrested on suspicion of his murder denied in court that they had killed the tourist.
Four of the accused did admit that they had robbed Thomas.
His cousin Olivia Barrett told the Irish Sun: “My family would love for people to know how talented beautiful Tom was.
“He was a self taught musician with so much talent. Singer/songwriter, guitarist, fiddle player and many more.
“He was a proud Mayo man, he loved his beloved home of Lahardaun.
“He was so gentle and kind, the funniest person you could meet he wouldn’t harm a fly.”
Thomas’s brother James Kennedy posted on social media: “I love you so much bro, you were the most amazing gentleman this world had to offer.
“You were too good for us all, I don’t honestly know how we will go on without you, but thank you so much for blessing us with the most amazing and funny stories we could ever wish for, and giving me 28 years of fantastic memories that an older brother could ever wish for, as I told you many times, you made me and the rest of the family so so proud.
“I’ll miss you forever Tom. I love you more than I could ever even try to describe. You legend.”
Prosecutors told the court how Thomas had struck up a conversation street busker Vasil Okropiridze, 24, who invited him to join his friends for a drink, reports The Times.
But it’s alleged that the meeting later turned violent and Kennedy was beaten and then thrown into the river.
The court heard that his phone was later found in a local pawn shop, and this prompted a police investigation.
And cops said that their investigation suggested that Kennedy was alive but unconscious when he was thrown into the river.
The court was told that the men had panicked after the robbery, thinking that they had killed him.
Giorgi Balashvili, 28, Zura Palavandishvili, 19, Giorgi Okhanashvili, 17, and Giorgi Kareli, 20, deny murder but admit robbery.
They claim that Kennedy was running away from the fight when he fell into the river.
Okropiridze has denied involvement in the robbery and Kennedy’s death.
Mikheil Beriashvili, a prosecutor, told the court: “The prosecution is not satisfied with the defence’s argument that the victim himself jumped or fell into river.
“We believe we are dealing with a premeditated murder in order to destroy the incriminating evidence of another crime — robbing. This was also carried out against a person who was helpless.”
All five accused have been detained by a court for two months – and face from 13 to 17 years in prison if found guilty.
Earlier this week cousin Olivia set up an appeal to raise funds to bring Tom home to Mayo.
She said he died “brutally” and “life will never be the same again”.
She said: “On Friday the 9th of October our beautiful Tom was found in Mtk’uari River in Georgia.
“He died brutally and tragically at the hands of five evil men. We are absolutely devastated there are no words, life will never be the same again without our beautiful talented boy.
“It is currently very difficult to repatriate Tom home due to the Covid19 restrictions, so we are setting up this GoFundMe Page to raise funds to bring Tom home as soon as possible, this is costly, and with the help of the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust, we will get him to his beloved home of County Mayo.
“Any funds raised over what is required will be donated to the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust, which is providing invaluable support to the Kennedy and Barrett family at this extremely difficult time.”
Thomas’s former club Lahardane MacHales GAA club said: “Farewell to a former North Mayo winning Captain of ours; Thomas (Tom) Kennedy cruelly taken in the prime of his life, he was one of the most chirpy lads around…ever smiling as he’d say “Nice one Bud” and “Cheers Bud”.
“Rest in peace ?
The Go Fund Me Page has already raised over €35,000 with tributes being paid to Tom and his family.
This family also shared a link for people to hear Thomas’s music.