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Murder trial hears Dale Creighton died from blunt force trauma to the head and face

Dale Creighton
Dale Creighton
The footbridge over the Tallaght bypass where the incident took place
The footbridge over the Tallaght bypass where the incident took place

The trial of seven Dubliners charged with murdering a Tallaght man has heard that the 20-year-old died of blunt force trauma to the head and face.

The Deputy State Pathologist was giving evidence today, on the 13th day of the Central Criminal Court trial.

Dale Creighton was assaulted on New Year’s Morning 2014 at the footbridge over the Tallaght bypass between Saint Dominic’s Road and Greenhills Road. He died in hospital the following day.

A woman and six men, who are in their 20s and from Tallaght, have all pleaded not guilty to murder.

They are 23-year-old Aisling Burke and 28-year-old David Burke, both with a current address at Beechpark, Collinstown, Co Westmeath; Graham Palmer (26) with a current address at Park Avenue, Portarlington, Co Laois; Ross Callery (23) currently of Gortlum Cottages, Brittas, Co Dublin; James Reid (26) currently of Glen Aoibhinn, Gorey, Co Wexford; Jason Beresford (23) with an address at Coill Diarmuida, Ard a’ Laoi, Castledermot, Co Kildare; and Gerard Stevens (27) currently of Grosvenor Square, Rathmines in Dublin.

Each accused also initially pleaded not guilty to violent disorder at the footbridge. However, Jason Beresford later changed his plea and pleaded guilty to the violent disorder charge.

Dr Michael Curtis testified that he carried out a post-mortem exam on Mr Creighton on January 3 that year, after Mr Creighton’s organs had been harvested for donation.

He described in detail bruises and abrasions that he found on his head, body and limbs.

He also gave evidence that his skull was fractured, his nose broken, his right thumb dislocated and that he had a stab wound to his thigh.

“The appearance of the wound suggested it had been inflicted with an implement other than the blade of a knife,” he explained.

During his internal examination of the head, he found extensive bruising to the deep tissues of the scalp and bleeding between the skull and surface of the brain.

He concluded that Mr Creighton had sustained extensive and severe blunt force trauma, particularly evident in the head and face.

He said his brain was swollen and injured, with movement and displacement of the brain, and there was brain stem compression.

He found diffuse axonal injury and hypoxic brain damage. He explained that different layers had moved across each other, causing damage to the axons of nerve cells.

He said a toxicology test had detected a modest level of alcohol and a trace level of cocaine in his system before his death.

He gave the cause of death as blunt force injury to the head and face, explaining that this had been caused either by something impacting the head or the head being impacted against something.

Under cross examination by Michael O’Higgins SC, defending Ross Callery, Dr Curtis agreed that the cause of death was brain swelling and axonal injury.

He explained that mechanical trauma could cause the damage to the axons and so could lying comatose over a period of hours or more. He said the two very frequently went together.

Mr O’Higgins then showed him footage of an assault on Mr Creighton by a man not before the court. It took place at the bottom of the bridge before the assault on the bridge.

“The man appears to kick into the body of a man on two or three occasions. They may have landed on the head,” said Mr O’Higgins.

“The man is over the man on the ground and appears to be punching him into the head area eight or nine times.”

Dr Curtis said that the injuries to the brain ‘could very readily be caused by that act’.

He was asked if the injuries inflicted on the bridge could have contributed to the death.

“Yes,” he said, agreeing that it was also possible that they had not.

Under re-examination by Seán Gillane SC, prosecuting, he agreed that the fact Mr Creighton was up and walking around after the first incident was a matter of significance.

“If he had significant axonal injury, he wouldn’t be able to do that,” he explained. “He could, at that time, be developing the brain swelling.”

He was then shown footage of what happened to Mr Creighton on the bridge.

“That could have caused the axonal injury,” he said.

Mr Gillane put it to him that axonal injury was caused either by an act of violence or the coma arising out of the trauma.

“Yes, and frequently the two coexist,” replied the pathologist.

He said that did not prohibit him in reaching a cause of death.

“The cause of death is the blunt force trauma,” he said.

The trial continues before Ms Justice Deirdre Murphy and a jury of six men and six women.

Earlier, a sergeant explained each strike on the deceased while footage of the assault was played for the jury.

Sergeant Brian Cagney pointed out Mr Creighton moving in an area near the footbridge around 3.50am that New Year’s Day, followed by another man and then James Reid.

“Dale Creighton had a knife in his hand,” explained the sergeant, adding that he appeared to stop and lunge at the man, who was following him.

Another camera showed Mr Creighton’s arrival at the bridge.

“David Burke comes from the black path,” he continued. “He appears to have a long, shiny object. He follows Dale Creighton.”

Mr Creighton was then seen jumping off the steps of the bridge.

The sergeant described more of the activity being played on screen, including what he said was Mr Burke striking the deceased.

He also described an incident where a car arrived and a man got out, kicked the deceased a number of times, punched him on nine consecutive occasions and returned to the car.

The jury has already heard that this man, James O’Brien, was charged with assault causing harm.

The sergeant described the arrival of Ross Callery, who he said then punched Mr Creighton.

He also described James Reid looking out over a railing with what he believed to be a knife in his right hand and a phone up to this left ear. He described Mr Reid then being joined by Aisling Burke.

He said that by 4.03am, Mr Creighton was lying prone on the bridge. Around him were all of the accused, he said, apart from Gerard Stevens, who arrived and slapped Mr Creighton to the head area.

Natasha Reid