The brother of a musician found dead in the river told how his family “doesn’t know how they will go on without him”.
Thomas Kennedy, 28, was in former Soviet Georgia when he was alleged to have been attacked by five men.
The 28-year-old talented singer/songwriter was on vacation in Georgia when she was invited to have a drink with a group of men.
However, three days later Thomas, originally from Lahardun, cum Mayo, was washed away in the Matkawari River near Ghori.
Police today were working on the theory that Thomas was not dead when thrown into the river.
They believe that he must have lost consciousness when he was duped by the group, which terrified him and threw him into cold water where he drowned.
Sources said this would explain why no major injuries or other signs of serious violence were found on his body.
Friends and family of the musician, who is believed to have been in Georgia to study music, 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.”
Meanwhile his cousin Olivia Barrett told the Irish Granthshala: “My family would love for people to know how talented Tom was.
“He was a self-taught musician with so much talent. Singer/songwriter, guitarist, fiddle player and many more.
“He was a proud meow man, he loved his lovely home wailing.
“He was so gentle and kind, the funniest person you could meet, he wouldn’t hurt a fly.”
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 €36,000 (£30,000).
Laharden McHale’s GAA, Thomas’ childhood Gaelic football team, said: “Farewell to our former North Mayo winning captain; 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.”
found in the river
It comes as five people who were arrested today on suspicion of murder, the group all 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.
Defense lawyer Giga Ziranashvili told TODAY: “My client does not agree with the prosecution’s version of events. It is not supported by any hard evidence. There are about 20 witnesses in this case.
“The next court hearing will be on November 8 and we look forward to a fair trial.”
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.
Georgian media have reacted angrily to the killing, and the government’s failure to help fund repatriation.
This is the second time in three months that a tourist has been brutally murdered in the country.
Australian backpacker Shane Brooke was attacked and killed on 30 July on the trails of Mount Mtsminda near the capital city of Tbilisi.
National newspaper Keviris Palitra wrote: “Georgia is fast becoming a dangerous place for foreign tourists, a dangerous place.
“After the murder of an Australian citizen last month, another foreigner who loved our country was killed here.
“We are in shock. The failure of our government to take meaningful action to tackle this menace is tantamount to recklessness.”
On social media, Georgians spoke out against the government’s failure to pay for Thomas’s body to be taken home.