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Murder trial jury fails to reach verdict

Cathal Sweeney
Cathal Sweeney

A jury has failed to reach a verdict in the trial of a Dublin father-of-one, charged with murdering a 62-year-old by punching him repeatedly until he admitted to a sexual assault that he believed he had committed on another man.

It was the second time a Central Criminal Court jury had disagreed in the case of Gary Walsh, who admitted manslaughter.

Mr Walsh believed that Cathal Sweeney had committed a sexual assault but was denying it, when he punched him into the face as they watched rugby in a mutual friend’s flat.

The court heard that the former rugby captain died of blunt force trauma after the assault in Ashdale Gardens, Terenure in Dublin.

Walsh (34) with an address at The Watercourse, Orwell Park in Templeogue, had pleaded not guilty to murder, but guilty to manslaughter on 8th February 2014.

The trial heard that both the accused and deceased had alcohol problems and that they had met for the first time that morning in the flat of a mutual friend, who described himself in court as an alcoholic.

That man, Colm Campbell, had told the accused that the deceased had sexually assaulted a man. The court heard that the complainant had not pursued the allegation with the authorities, but had been friendly with Mr Sweeney at the time of his death.

The taxi driver, who had brought Mr Sweeney to the flat that morning, said the deceased was on a crutch, was shaky, had a grazed face and was very slow at getting in and out of the car. The deceased had asked him to go to the ATM and shop for him and to help him into the flat, explaining to the driver that he had fainted at a bus stop the previous day.

Mr Walsh told gardai that they had been getting along well until a row had erupted, with Mr Campbell mentioning the alleged sexual assault, and Mr Sweeney denying it.

“He kept denying it and it just kicked off,” he said. “Cathal said he didn’t do it so I hit him a few times.”

He said there was a lot of blood and he told Mr Campbell to go and clean himself up. He said he went to check on him and found him slumped over. He immediately called an ambulance.

Colm Campbell had told gardai that he had heard Mr Walsh demand €20,000 from Mr Sweeney, who had recently received an inheritance.

“Money had nothing to do with it,” he replied, when this was put to him. “I wasn’t looking for money.”

The pathologist gave his cause of death as ‘blunt force trauma to the head and face with profuse hemorrhage on a background of coronary artery atheroma, an enlarged heart and warfarin therapy’.

He accepted that the six or seven punches Mr Walsh had admitted giving could have accounted for all the injuries.

The State said the issue in this case was specific intent. The prosecutor explained that if the blows were intended to cause serious injury, as a result of which he died, the jury should convict him of murder.

The defence said Mr Walsh could not have known that Mr Sweeney was on warfarin or had a serious liver problem that would contribute to him bleeding profusely into his airways. The defender asked for a verdict of not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter.

The six women and six men of the jury spent five hours considering their verdict over two days before returning to court yesterday afternoon. They had already been given the option of reaching a majority verdict.

“We are locked in our deliberations,” the foreman told Mr Justice Michael Moriarty. “We cannot reach a unanimous or majority decision.”

The judge declared a disagreement and told the foreman to record ‘Unable to agree’ on the issue paper.

“It is a difficult case,” he said. “It has already similarly troubled another jury in the past”

He put the case in for mention again on Monday.