Murder who knifed man over 100 times loses appeal

VICTIM: David Whyte
VICTIM: David Whyte

A convicted murder who stabbed his victim more than 100 times in the ruins of an old Dublin church has had his appeal against conviction dismissed.

Criostóir MacCárthaigh (38), of An Gleann, Palmerstown, had pleaded not guilty to murdering David Whyte (35) in Dublin between Sept 24 and 26, 2008 by stabbing him more than 100 times.

A jury at the Central Criminal Court unanimously found MacCárthaigh guilty of murder and he was given the mandatory life sentence by Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy on February 19 2013.

The jury heard that MacCárthaigh had been drinking in a flat in Phibsborough on the night of the murder and that he had stabbed the deceased ‘to pieces’ in the ruin of an old church.

MacCárthaigh had appealed his conviction on grounds that the trial judge erred in allowing certain material to go before the jury.

Counsel for MacCárthaigh, Diarmaid McGuinness SC, said his client's answer to a garda question on how his DNA ended up on the deceased's trousers should not have been regarded as a failure or refusal to answer the question. He had told gardaí that he was not a scientist and did not know how his DNA got there.

When further questioned on his presence at Mill Lane in September 2008 he said that he could not remember.

These answers coupled with “the invisible knife” a witness assumed MacCárthaigh had earlier in the evening and evidence of a Special Criminal Court conviction MacCárthaigh had for possession of explosives must have been “incredibly prejudicial”, counsel said.

It was materially destructive of MacCárthaigh's character when he hadn't given any evidence himself, Mr McGuinness said.

Dismissing his appeal today, Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan said the three-judge court was satisfied that MacCárthaigh's answer was a deliberate attempt at evasion.

Mr Justice Sheehan noted that the answer was given shortly after a consultation with his solicitor and he had stated that he understood the question.

The court was satisfied that the judge's directions to the jury were satisfactory, the answers constituted a failure and it was open to the jury to draw inferences from his answers.

Furthermore, the judge was correct to admit into evidence the opinion of a man who stated that MacCarthaigh had a knife in his possession earlier on in the night. It was a matter for the jury to assess this witness' credibility, the judge said.

Mr Justice Sheehan said the principle prosecution witness, who had removed the body of the deceased on the night, was robustly questioned on his own previous convictions.

The questioning of this witness was “clearly designed” to blacken his character, Mr Justice Sheehan said, and as such MacCarthaigh “lost his shield” and could not challenge the admissibility of his own previous convictions.

If the court were to hold with MacCarthaigh on this ground, Mr Justice Sheehan said an accused person could launch all kinds of attacks on witnesses in criminal trials including the deceased.

Accordingly, Mr Justice Sheehan, who sat with Mr Justice George Birmingham and Mr Justice Alan Mahon, dismissed the appeal.