Family's anguish as murderer gets life for baseball bat killing

Family's anguish as murderer gets life for baseball bat killing

A Hungarian national has been jailed for life for murdering a 20-year-old Kildare man with a baseball bat, whose family themselves are enduring a "life sentence".

Zoltan Almasi (44) with an address at Harbour View, Naas, Co. Kildare was charged with murdering Joseph Dunne at the same address on May 16, 2014.

Three weeks ago at the Central Criminal Court Almasi pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr Dunne.

On March 10, a jury of six men and six women found Almasi guilty by majority verdict of murdering Mr Dunne in Kildare over two years ago. They had deliberated over four days for a period of eleven hours and 13 minutes.

Following last week's verdict, Ms Justice Heneghan thanked the jury and exempted them from jury service for a period of fifteen years.

Today, prosecution counsel Mr Bernard Condon SC called Sergeant Paul Maher of Naas Garda Station to summarise the evidence in the case.

The court heard that Joseph Dunne was the youngest of four boys and that both his parents are still alive. 

Sgt Maher agreed with counsel that Almasi has three previous convictions for road traffic offences.

Almasi has been in custody since May 16, 2014, and at the time of the offence he was working for a courier company. 

Sgt Maher also agreed with defence counsel Mr Colm O'Briain SC that his client's wife and stepson had previously resided in Naas but they have since moved to Canada.

The court heard Almasi has three children from a previous marriage/relationship and they reside in Hungary.

Ms Justice Margaret Heneghan then sentenced Almasi to life imprisonment and backdated it to the date of his arrest on May 16, 2014. 

"It would be remiss of me in the circumstances not to extend my sympathy to the family of Joseph Dunne," she said. 

Today, prosecution counsel Mr Bernard Condon SC called Richard Dunne to read a Victim Impact Statement to the court on behalf of the Dunne family.

The court heard Richard Dunne is the second eldest boy in his family and he called JoJo Dunne (Joseph Dunne) his "baby brother."

"I'm reading this on behalf of JoJo's family and friends. He touched so many lives in the short space of time he spent with us. There were alot of pictures painted of him since this whole ordeal started and hopefully this one will be remembered as it comes straight from our hearts," he read.

Richard Dunne said his brother was "a kind, gentle, loving and caring lad in every sense of the word."

The court heard Joseph "never turned his back on anyone that needed help."

"He always made time to visit his grandparents. He use to love travelling around with his granddad in his green van or as he called it his Rolls-Royce. JoJo loved his family in every sense of the word. It is so sad to know he won't ever have a chance to start his own family," he read.

Richard Dunne said his brother was an "animal lover who had a passion for horses and greyhounds." 

"The care and dedication he gave to them was second to none," he said.

"JoJo had his whole life ahead of him. He had a wise head on such young shoulders. He was diligent in his work and commuted from Athy to Newbridge every day on a bus. He knew he had to start somewhere," he added. 

Richard Dunne said it was "not fair" that his brother's life was "cut short for no good reason."

"Nobody deserves to have their life taken away. We can't begin to explain the devastation this has caused us. It has left a hole in our lives and an emptiness that can never be filled. Us as a family will never come to terms with what has happened. 

"We lost a son, brother, grandson, uncle, nephew and a friend so tragically that night.  We wont ever be the same again. It has just devastated us all, it has left us in ruins, we never got to say goodbye to our special man. We hope our angel has gone to heaven and to his credit heaven couldn't have gained anyone better," concluded Richard Dunne.

The prosecution then called another brother of the deceased to read a second Victim Impact Statement.

George Dunne told the court he was the third eldest boy in the Dunne family and Joseph was his younger brother.

"I played on football teams with him from a young age. He was my best friend and although he was younger than me, I looked up to him. JoJo was godfather to my daughter and she doesn’t understand why he is not coming back home," read George Dunne.

George Dunne told the court he has to "live day in, day out knowing" he "will never hug him or chat with him again."

"The pain I live with everyday over the loss of my brother is unbearable. JoJo was always telling jokes, if you didn’t have a smile on your face when you first saw him, you certainly would after. Sometimes I wake up and think this is a bad dream. This is a life sentence for me and my family," he said.

Defence counsel Mr O'Briain then told the court that his client expresses his remorse for causing the death of Joseph Dunne.

It was the State's case that Mr Almasi attacked Joseph Dunne with a baseball bat after he hit his white Mercedes van.

The court heard Mr Almasi lived alone at Harbour View in rented accommodation and worked for a courier company.

He was born in Serbia but became a Hungarian national around 2007. The prosecution said that shortly after this Mr Almasi came to Ireland.

The jury heard evidence that CCTV footage showed Mr Almasi raising his right arm as he chased the deceased and moments later running away with a baseball bat in his right hand.

At the beginning of the trial, prosecution counsel Mr Bernard Condon SC called Mikey McDonagh to give evidence.

The 20 year-old-man from Kildare told the jury he met up with the deceased JoJo Dunne (Joseph Dunne) and another friend, Gavin Breen, on May 16.

The jury heard that Joseph Dunne was "smacked" "at the back of his head" by a man with a baseball bat after the deceased hit a parked van "a thump."

When the witness was asked how the man hit him Mr McDonagh said: "He raised the bat with his right hand. JoJo was running. He was facing away from the man and had his back turned."

The court heard when Joseph Dunne was hit he fell to the ground.

The prosecution counsel also called Gavin Breen to give evidence.

The 21-year-old from Kildare town told the court that he was in the company of JoJo Dunne who was his "second or third cousin" as well as Mikey McDonagh on the night.

The court heard JoJo was in "bad humour" and as they were walking down past the harbour the deceased was "all psyched up" and "hit the van a box."

"We turned around and JoJo ran in front of us and there was a man chasing him with a baseball bat. I saw him striking JoJo with the baseball bat at the side of the head. He raised his bat when he was chasing him," said Gavin Breen.

This man then "chased" Gavin Breen around a jeep before "he ran back down towards his house."

Prosecution counsel Ms Orla Crowe BL also called Anita Ryan to give evidence.

Ms Anita Ryan, a nurse, told the court that she was out for dinner in the Vie de Châteaux restaurant in Naas on May 16.

"I saw a group of youngsters screaming around the cars and a gentleman in the corner was holding a baseball bat. He seemed quite angry and was holding the baton up head high," she said.

The witness said she heard the man saying: "I've seen what you have done to my car."

When the witness walked to the front of the restaurant she saw "a chap" on the ground.

Ms Ryan told the court she made a 999 call at 10.20pm that night before she administered first aid to "the man who turned out to be Joseph Dunne."

Later gardai asked Ms Ryan to walk back near the canal and identify a gentleman.

"I thought he looked quite similar to the gentleman who was holding the baseball bat," said Ms Ryan.

During the trial the court heard that three finger marks were lifted from the outside of a white Mercedes van in the Harbour View area of Naas.

The first two sets of finger marks were made by Mr Almasi's "right middle finger" and the third set of finger marks were "likely to be made by Joseph Dunne’s left forefinger."

Gardai also told the court they took possession of a baseball bat from a house at Harbour View. An examination for finger marks and palm marks was carried out but with negative results.

Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis was called to give evidence and he told the court that Joseph Dunne died from blunt force trauma to the head which was consistent with a blow from "the very tip of a baseball bat."

The post mortem examination concluded that Joseph Dunne died as a result of "severe traumatic head injury."

Dr Curtis agreed with the prosecution that the post mortem supported the findings that "only one substantial blow" was delivered to the deceased.

In cross examination Dr Curtis told defence counsel Mr Colm O'Briain SC that the fracture to the skull was "in more than one piece".

He said that as a result of the blow there was bleeding outside the brain between the brain and skull.

Prosecution counsel Mr Condon also called Garda Stephen Flaherty of Naas Garda Station to give evidence.

Gda Flaherty told the court he was preserving the scene outside the Vie de Châteaux restaurant in Naas on May 16 when he was approached by a male at 11.20pm.

When this man was asked for his name and address, he gave the name of Zoltan Almasi with an address in Naas.

Gda Flaherty then asked Mr Almasi if he had witnessed anything.

The garda said Mr Almasi told him: "I came home and parked my car behind the garage. I went into the house and heard bang, bang, bang. There were four guys and one girl outside my house damaging my car."

The court heard Mr Almasi said he then came out of his house with a baseball bat and followed one of the men who then "fell to the floor."

The court heard Mr Almasi was then arrested and brought to Naas Garda Station.

Detective Garda Thomas Power also told the jury he examined a white Mercedes van for damage but found only "general wear and tear."

Mr Almasi told gardai in his first and second interview that he did not strike the deceased with his baseball bat as he is "not capable of doing it",

In the third interview when Mr Almasi was asked by gardai if he swung the baseball bat at Mr Dunne he replied: "I don’t remember. I don’t know, it looks like I did but I didn’t. It looks like its me but I didn’t reach him."

When gardai asked Mr Almasi if it was possible "the very tip of the baseball bat hit" Joseph Dunne, the accused replied: "I don’t know, I didn’t feel me hitting him."

In the fourth interview Mr Almasi was asked by gardai if he accepted that his baseball bat hit Joseph Dunne, Mr Almasireplied: "I can't accept something I can't remember doing. Things happened very fast I was angry."

"It wasn’t my intention to hit anyone. Most likely it was accident. I don’t remember hitting him," he said.

Alison O'Riordan