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Jury in trial of alleged Co Louth axe-murderer begin deliberations

Marius Gaizutis
Marius Gaizutis

A jury in the trial of a man accused of murdering a man with an axe have been sent out to begin deliberations at the Central Criminal Court this afternoon.

Marius Gaizutis (52) of Marsh Road, Drogheda, Co Louth is charged with murdering Audrius Butkus (44) at that address on the 9th or 10th of September, 2013.

Mr Gaizutis pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to manslaughter when he was arraigned before the Central Criminal Court over a week ago.

This was not acceptable to the State and a jury was sworn in to try him.

Prosecution counsel Mr Patrick Gageby SC began his closing speech this morning where he told the jury of four women and eight men they had two verdicts open to them, to find the accused guilty of murder or not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter.

The court heard that the partial defence of provocation which can reduce murder to manslaughter was open to them.

Mr Gageby told the court that it was very clear from the post mortem performed by State Pathologist Dr Marie Cassidy on Mr Butkus's body after it was discovered face down in the sand on Mornington Beach, that he was the "victim of a very serious assault by an axe which broke his skull in a number of cases."

"The majority of the blows to the back of his head were done when the deceased was on the ground, defenceless.

It is beyond argument that taking a hatchet like this to a man and attacking him to his body shows at a minimum an intention to cause serious injury and an intent to kill.

It is beyond doubt that Mr Gaizutis killed Mr Butkus by battering him to death with a hatchet," said Mr Gageby.

Mr Gageby then summarised the forensic evidence for the jury saying it was pertinent that no fingerprints were found on the axe or anything else connected with this murder and one explanation for this was because it was quite a good clean up.

"The clean up was very deliberate and it wasn't completely successful. A lot of care was taken and Matthews Lane is quite a bit away," added Mr Gageby.

Mr Gageby then told the jury how there were blood stains everywhere at the accused man's house at Marsh Road and they had heard from Mr Stephen Clifford from Forensic Science Ireland (FSI) how there was "clear evidence of a clean up."

"We heard Mr Butkus was assaulted in the downstairs dining area and his blood was found on the ceiling of the dining room, on the axe, a sock and in the boot of a car used to dump Mr Butkus's body," added Mr Gageby.

The court heard then heard from the prosecution counsel how Mr Butkus had many lacerations and his cuts were consistent with the axe.

"That is also the axe Mr Gaizutis said he used and there was no evidence of any defensive injuries on the accused arms caused by Mr Butkus," said Mr Gageby.

Mr Gageby also recounted how Mr Butkus's second cousin previously said in a statement read during the trial that the deceased would shout a bit if he was drunk but he would never fight.

"He was not aggressive, that evidence was read without contest and it is of some importance," added Mr Gageby. The court then heard how Mr Gaizutis made six statements which began on the evening of September 30 2013.

Mr Gageby put it to the jury: "You are not bound to accept everything that a witness says, you can cherry-pick.

Let’s be clear that in the second interview he says he doesn't remember much at all perhaps on account of the drink, in the third one says he didn't invite the deceased back.

You should also remember these statements were made approximately twenty days after Mr Butkus has been killed and after Mr Gaizutis had decided to leave, go to the North and consider trying to get fake papers and disappear into the ether.

"Mr Gageby also said the fact that Mr Butkus may have had a drink problem and the fact he was of no fixed abode makes no difference, "he was a human being like the rest of us."

"In the last few statements Mr Gaizutis changes his statements and indicates he is afraid for his family as Mr Butkus threatens his partner and their five children.

This is an area you have to look carefully at in the case, just because its said you are not obliged to believe it.

The bottle that Mr Gaizutis says is the first instrument taken to him by the deceased was never recovered and was never put into the green plastic bags that were dumped in Matthews Lane," said Mr Gageby.

Mr Gageby then put it to the jury did Mr Gaizutis lose control or was there as the prosecution suggest a calculated mind.

A lot of thought, time and effort was put into cleaning-up the evidence and why so, because this was a murder and we suggest that this is the verdict you should bring in," concluded Mr Gageby. Defence counsel Mr Ciaran O'Loughlin told the jury that Mr Gageby suggested events which occurred in the aftermath of Mr Butkus's death somehow show an intent.

"I think this is absolute nonsense, they show anything but an intention that he tried to hide the body. Circumstances happen where there are certain fights and he lost control temporarily.

In this case Mr Gaizutis says Mr Butkus physically attacked him and it was a sustained attack that didn't look like it was going to end and he threatened his family," said Mr O'Loughlin.

"The frenzied nature of this act and the savagery of this case should point to the fact that he was out of control," added Mr O'Loughlin.

Mr O'Loughlin put it to the jury that Mr Gaizutis's injury to the back of his head suggests he was hit from behind by Mr Butkus and the doctors report was consistent with an injury two weeks before as well as an injury from a broken bottle.

"Mr Gageby made some play that the clean up was done and once he started it, he had to continue with it, it was too late to ring the guards, the die had been cast, it was a panicked reaction.

The clean-up operation certainly wasn't planned in advance and the dumping of the body wasn't planned in advance, I suggest this is preposterous. He lost control due to provocation and the verdict in this case should be manslaughter," concluded Mr O'Loughlin.

Before Ms Justice Margaret Heneghan charged the jury she told them their function was to decide the facts of the case on the oral evidence that they heard from the witnesses and the exhibits they saw.

 "To convict of murder you must be satisfied that both the element and act performed by the accused was unlawful.

 The prosecution's case is that Mr Butkus was murdered by Mr Gaizutis.

 The defence's case is that while Mr Gaizutis did kill Mr Butkus, they say he was provoked by Mr Butkus," she said.

After deliberating for two hours and eleven minutes this afternoon, the jury were instructed to suspend deliberations until Friday morning at 10am.