Man found on Louth beach possibly died from axe to the head

Marius Gaizutis
Marius Gaizutis

A jury in a murder trial has heard the body of a man found on a Louth beach in 2013 met his death from some sharp and heavy implement - possibly an axe - to the back of his head.

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 on Monday.

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

Audrius Butkus

Co-accused Aivers Sonders (53) of Sycamore Close, Termon Abbey in Drogheda, is charged with three counts of assisting an offender on the same dates by impeding Mr Gaizutis’s apprehension or prosecution.

The particulars include moving the body from Marsh Road and placing it in the sea at Mornington Beach; cleaning up the scene at Marsh Road; and disposing of carpet, clothing, a nail brush, bin bag, bottles and tins from the scene at the Burke House, Mathew’s Lane, Drogheda. Mr Sonders has pleaded not guilty to all three counts.

Opening the prosecution's case, Mr Patrick Gageby SC told the court that both Mr Gaizutis and Mr Sonders shared the house on Marsh Road with their partners and Mr Sonders had moved into the house in June 2013.

Mr Gageby said the two men were from Latvia but had been living in Ireland for a number of years. Mr Butkus was from Lithuania and he had come to Ireland in 2006/2007 as he had a second cousin living in Drogheda.

The prosecuting counsel said the deceased had no sooner arrived here when he fell into a pattern of heavy drinking.

On the evening of September 9 2013 Mr Buktus was drinking in a public place and was moved on by gardai "He seems to have encountered Mr Gaizutis who invited him back for a drink on Marsh Road and he wasn't seen alive after that," said Mr Gageby.

The court heard that on Tuesday September 10 2013 a local man went fishing down near Mornington beach where he found the body of Mr Buktus and called the authorities.

Mr Gageby SC said it was beyond argument that Mr Buktus met his death from some sharp and heavy implement, possibly an axe, to the back of his head.

 Mr Gageby added that in the course of the trial the jury of eight men and four women would hear from State Pathologist Professor Marie Cassidy who would tell them her conclusions.

The court heard that the gardai started an enquiry which started at Marsh Road and there was forensic evidence at the bottom of the house which showed there had been an attempt to clean it up.

"When interviewed Mr Gaizutis gave an account of meeting Mr Buktus and inviting him to the house where an argument and fight ensued as a result of which Mr Buktus died," said Mr Gageby.

"Having caused the death of Mr Buktus, Mr Gaizutus got Mr Sonders who was upstairs to dump the body of Mr Buktus at Mornington beach.

Mr Sonders carried the body out of the house and into his small red Suzuki car. He threw it into the ocean but the ocean gave it back in a few hours due to the tide," added Mr Gageby. Mr Gageby told the court Mr Sonders attempted to clean up the house and dumped some material like a carpet.

"Mr Sonders was arrested very shortly after and you will hear what he told gardai when in custody, then he was released without charge but he came back voluntarily and make a further admission that he had rendered assistance.

It will be up to you if he rendered assistance without lawful excuse," Mr Gageby put it to the jury. The court heard that Mr Gaizutis then handed himself into the garda station a couple of weeks later.

Det Sgt Paul Curran said there was blood staining on a mop head and bucket at Marsh Road as well as the boot of a red Suzuki Swift car.

Another witness called by the prosecution was Brian McAreavey who was in the area of Mornington Beach, to go fishing on the morning of September 10 2013.

The court heard when Mr McAreavey came across the body of Mr Butkus he initially thought it was a mattress or a dummy and it was lying face down on the stones.

“The trousers were down to his ankles and his shoes on," said Mr McAreavey.

Garda Deirdre Semple stationed at Laytown Garda Station who was present at the scene that morning later told Mr Gageby how a bag was also discovered at the edge of the coastline at 10.30am on the same day about 50 metres from where Mr Butkus's body was found and it was covered in blood.

Gda Semple also noticed two marks in the sand which looked like the body had been dragged.

Gda Semple then told the court a second cousin of Mr Buktus's was contacted to formally establish the deceased's identity.

The second cousin Mr Jocas Lavyhdas was brought to the morgue at 2pm that day to positively identify his cousin and a statement was taken.

Reading the statement taken by Mr Lavyhdas on September 10 2013, Mr Gageby said Mr Lavyhdas's uncle had asked him to get work for his cousin Audrius in Ireland and that was the reason he came.

"He would shout a bit if he was drunk but he would never fight or hit anyone, he was not aggressive," read Mr Gageby.

The trial continues under Ms Justice Margaret Heneghan and is expected to last five or six days.