Prosecution claims accused lured victim away from CCTV and stabbed him

James Connors
James Connors

A man accused of murdering his ex-girlfriend's partner lured him to an area hidden from CCTV cameras and stabbed him with a kitchen knife, prosecution lawyers have told his trial.

James 'Chuck' Connors (29), of Rosemount, Drinagh, Co Wexford, has pleaded not guilty to the murder of 27-year-old Jason Ryan at Hollyville Heights in Wexford Town on January 25, 2012.

Prosecution Counsel Gerard Clarke SC today gave his closing speech in the case.

 He told the jury of five women and seven men that the evidence they have seen and heard shows that the accused man set out to kill Mr Ryan because he was going out with Mr Connors's ex-girlfriend, Samantha Hore.

He said that Mr Connors brought a knife with him and, using prior knowledge of CCTV cameras in the area, lured him to a blind spot and stabbed him five times.

Defence counsel Michael Delaney SC, in his summary, said Mr Connors acted in self-defence and that Mr Ryan was the aggressor, having launched an attack with a metal-studded baton.

Setting out the State's case Mr Clarke said that the evidence showed that James Connors rang the doorbell of Mr Ryan's home in Hollyville Heights shortly after midnight on January 25, 2012

Mr Ryan shouted down to him from an upstairs window and then went back into his apartment to put on runners and get a baton that he kept for protection, Mr Clarke said.

During this time Mr Connors walked away from Mr Ryan's front door, up a ramp and into an area that is not covered by CCTV cameras.

Mr Clarke said that Mr Connors had told gardai during an interview on January 28, 2012 that he saw Mr Ryan carrying a baton and that he had a knife tucked into the waistband of his trousers when he came to the door.

Mr Clarke said CCTV footage that was shown to the jury, showed that by the time Mr Ryan came down to his front door Mr Connors was already too far away to see anything that Mr Ryan was carrying. He added: "How could Chuck Connors have noticed at the door what Jason Ryan had with him.

 He could not possibly have met Jason Ryan face to face at the door but he, Chuck Connors, had that knife with him for the purpose of inflicting injury on Jason Ryan.

Why did he bring it? Why would someone bring a knife to his former girlfriend's place?"

He added: "The accused says he was hit on the head and somehow managed to grab the knife out of the waistband of Jason Ryan's trousers. He had that knife, he intended to use and he did use it."

Mr Clarke also pointed to DNA evidence given by Dr Stephen Clifford of the Forensic Science laboratory. Dr Clifford said that DNA from Ms Mary Connors was found on the handle of the knife.

Mr Clarke said that Mr Connors had been at Ms Connors's house on January 24th.

In an interview with Detectives he said that he got out of bed at Ms Connors's house at 6pm on the 24th, had dinner and then went drinking at a house nearby.

Mr Clarke said: "Mary Connors's DNA, we say, should convince you that the knife came from her house. How else would her DNA get on the knife? We say that Chuck Connors brought that knife with him."

Defence counsel Michael Delaney SC told the jury that the prosecution could have asked Mary Connors, who gave evidence in court, to say if the knife belonged to her.

He said she was a co-operative and reliable witness who had done her best to aid the jury and that they should consider this omission by the prosecution when considering if the DNA evidence constituted proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

He also questioned how Mr Connors could have concealed the long, brown-handled kitchen knife over the course of an evening when he met several other people, none of whom said they saw him with a knife.

He also pointed out that Mr Connors's DNA was not found on the knife, adding: "This is consistent with only transient contact with the knife."

Mr Delaney also questioned the prosecution's portrayal of Mr Ryan's role in the confrontation that led to his death.

 He said: "You may have gotten the impression that he left the apartment like an innocent lamb to the slaughter," before adding that Mr Ryan could have remained in his apartment, that he chose to come outside and that he was carrying a mini baseball bat with eight steel studs in it.

He said he went after the accused, not to protect himself or his girlfriend, but as an aggressor.

He pointed to the evidence of one neighbour, Catriona Purdy, who said she looked out her window and saw a man with a baton hit another man twice.

He said this was ignored by the prosecution because it is an "inconvenient truth".

"There was a man, much bigger built, in a rage, attacking him with a metal studded baseball bat and struck him on the head and this man is intent on keeping on hitting him. If a knife is available to him, what choice does he have but to use it?

What other way for him to get the better of Mr Ryan?"

"Self defence is central to this case," he added. "The accused man was subjected to an unlawful attack."

Justice Margaret Heneghan, in her charge to the jury, said they will be given the choice of a verdict of guilty of murder, not guilty, or not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter.

She said that they must consider the defence's claim that Mr Connors was defending himself and if they think that he used reasonable force in doing so, they should find him not guilty of any offence.

If they think that he was defending himself but the force he used was not reasonable, they should find him not guilty of murder, but guilty of manslaughter.

Justice Heneghan will continue her charge to the jury tomorrow (Friday).