A musician, killed by a gang of five in a robbery gone wrong, is thrown into a river when they thought he was dead, a court has heard.
Thomas Kennedy, 28, was on vacation in former Soviet Georgia when he was invited to have a drink with a group of men.
However, three days later, Thomas, of County Mayo, Ireland, was found floating in the Matakwari River near Gory.
Five people were arrested on suspicion of murder – but today the group denied in court that they had killed the tourist.
However, the four accused admitted that they had robbed Thomas.
As The Times reports, prosecutors told the court how Thomas had killed Vasil Okropyridze, a 24-year-old conversational street busker who had invited him to drink with his friends.
But it is alleged that the meeting later turned violent and Kennedy was beaten up and then thrown into the river.
The court heard that his phone was later found at a local pawn shop, and this prompted a police investigation.
And police said their investigation showed Kennedy was alive but fainted when he was thrown into the river.
The court was told that after the robbery they were terrified 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 on the run from the fight when he fell in the river.
Okropiridze has denied involvement in the robbery and Kennedy’s death.
A prosecutor Mikhail Baryashvili told the court: “The prosecution is not satisfied with the defense’s argument that the victim herself jumped or fell into the river.
“We believe that we are dealing with a premeditated murder to destroy incriminating evidence of another crime – robbery. It was also committed against a helpless person.”
All five accused have been detained by a court for two months – and could face 13 to 17 years in prison if convicted.
The musician’s friends and family have been paying tribute to Thomas on social media.
His elder brother wrote: “I love you so much brother, you were the most wonderful gentleman in this world.
“You were so nice to all of us. I honestly don’t know how we would go on without you, but thank you so much for blessing us with the most amazing and funny stories.
He continued: “I told you many times, you have made me and the rest of the family so proud that I will always miss you Tom.
“I love you more than I can ever try to describe. You legend.”
Her aunt said: “Rip on my beautiful nephew. You were unique in every way.
“One of the kindest souls to ever walk this earth, you trusted with all your heart and played your music like a genius! We will never forget you.”
fundraiser for the family
Earlier this week Tom’s cousin Olivia Barrett appealed to the Claremores to raise funds to bring Tom home to co mayo.
He said that he died “brutally” and that “life will never be the same again”.
She said: “On Friday 9 October our beautiful Tom was found in the Mountquary River in Georgia.
“He died ruthlessly and tragically at the hands of five bad men. We are utterly devastated, no words, life will never be the same again without our handsome talented boy.
“It is currently very difficult to bring Tom back home due to the Covid19 restrictions, so we are setting up this GoFundMe page to raise funds to get Tom home as soon as possible, it is expensive, and the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust’s With help, we’ll take her to her lovely home in County Mayo.
Any funds raised for what is needed will be donated to the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust, which is providing invaluable support to the Kennedy and Barrett families during this extremely difficult time.”
NS go fund me page A tribute to Tom and his family has already raised €33,000 (£28,000).
Thomas’ childhood Gaelic football team Laharden McHales The GAA also paid tribute, saying: “Farewell to one of our former North Mayo winning captains; Thomas (Tom) Kennedy, brutally taken in the prime of his life.
“He was one of the most irritable boys around… Always smiling and saying ‘Nice one Bud’ and ‘Cheers Bud’. Rest in peace.”