Defrocked Priest Says He's Sorry and Walks Free
By Cliona Foley
August 31, 2004
The defrocked priest who attacked the Olympic marathon leader during the race walked free from a Greek court yesterday.
Neil Horan (57), who caused chaos by running on to the track during last year's British Grand Prix, was given a one-year suspended sentence.
During the Athens court hearing, he apologised for pushing the then leader, Brazilian Vanderlei de Lima, into the crowd and said he hoped to be forgiven on Judgment Day.
The three-member court found Horan guilty of violating Greek laws by disrupting a sports event outside a stadium.
De Lima, who recovered from the attack to claim the bronze medal, said he harboured no resentment toward the man.
Horan, originally from Scartaglen, Co Kerry and who now lives in Nunhead, south London, was also given a fine of ?3,000 for the attack, which he carried out wearing a green beret, a red kilt and knee-high green socks.
The court told Horan he would have to serve the sentence if he violated any laws in Greece for the next three years.
It could have sentenced Horan to a maximum of five years, but apparently gave him the suspended sentence because of his questionable mental state.
Horan shocked TV viewers around the world when he dashed out of the crowd and dragged the marathon leader to the ground. The runner was only three miles from the finish when Horan bundled him into spectators at the side of the road. After a scuffle, the runner managed to get away, but was clearly ruffled, and finished third.
Horan was taken to the General Police Division of Attica, where he stayed before appearing in court yesterday. Police said he was drunk when apprehended and had spent the earlier part of the day in a taverna.
The Brazilian Olympic Committee put in an official complaint and at one point the medal ceremony for the event was in doubt.
The race jury decided the result must stand. However, the International Olympic Committee awarded De Lima the Pierre de Coubertin Olympic medal for fair play and Olympic values. Baron de Coubertin was the founder of the modern Games.
Horan was jailed for two months last year when he caused Formula One drivers to swerve at high speeds when he invaded the track.
He has been barred from practising as a priest for the past decade. He once published a book called 'A Glorious New World Very Soon To Come" which predicted the world would soon end.
Horan has been well-known as a peace campaigner. But he has also advanced more bizarre theories connected to his beliefs that the Second Coming is nigh.
Leslie Broad, of Deunant Books, which publishes Horan's books on its website, said: "We publish two of his books on biblical prophecies and he seems to be fairly convinced the second coming is due fairly shortly.
"After the incident at Silverstone, he did say he would never do anything like that again.
"He comes across as a shy, very intelligent and compassionate man but as is often the way with people who are very intelligent, it sometimes manifests itself in very strange ways."
After the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, he was jailed for two months for aggravated trespass but freed because he had already served six weeks on remand.
He said at the time: "I cannot regret anything that is the will of the Almighty but I am not planning any more stunts. God told me this was my defining moment."
When he attempted to disrupt the London marathon this year, police spotted him and pinned him down. Horan has also tried to protest at Wimbledon and disrupt cricket and rugby matches.
Source: Irish Independent
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