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Hungarian national guilty of murdering Kildare man with baseball bat

Central Criminal Court
Central Criminal Court

A Hungarian national has been found guilty of murdering a 20-year-old Kildare man with a baseball bat.

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.

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

Today the jury of six men and six women returned a majority verdict of guilty of murder after eleven hours and 13 minutes deliberating.

The jury retired to begin their deliberations on Monday morning at 12.44am.

On Tuesday Ms Justice Margaret Heneghan gave the jury the option of bringing in a majority verdict after four hours and 48 minutes deliberating.

On Wednesday the foreman of the jury told the court that at least ten of them had not agreed on a verdict and more time would be of assistance to them.

Following today’s verdict Ms Justice Heneghan thanked the jury and exempted them from jury service for a period of fifteen years.

"You have been here for twelve days. You have worked very hard and very conscientiously in the trial here and in the course of your deliberations. The work you do here is extremely important. I thank you for the time you have given to this criminal trial," said Ms Justice Heneghan. 

The judge then remanded Mr Almasi in custody to be sentenced on Wednesday March 16.

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 Almasi replied: "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.