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Trial latest Jury hears of domestic violence in case of man accused of murdering his father

Stephen Butler told gardaí he punched his father in the head up to 8 times

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Stephen Butler has been charged with his father’s murder

Stephen Butler has been charged with his father’s murder

Stephen Butler has been charged with his father’s murder

A court in Waterford has heard of a history of domestic violence in the case of a man accused of killing his father.

Stephen Butler, 23, is charged with the murder of 48-year-old John Butler, which he has pleaded not guilty to, however he has told the court that he pleads guilty to manslaughter.

The Central Criminal Court trial, which reached its sixth day on Monday, heard how Stephen Butler was "getting even more vexed" as he said his father's behaviour reminded him of his treatment of his mother during a row at their home on Brown Street in Portlaw, Co Waterford on January 11, 2020.

Shortly after, he punched his father "seven or eight times" in the head. John Butler was later pronounced dead at University Hospital Waterford.

Stephen Butler, who has an address at Sheilbaggin, Ramsgrange, New Ross, Co Wexford, told gardaí in interviews that on the night of the row, when his father threatened he was going to ring the guards, he told him to carry through on the threat, so the younger man could "tell them [gardaí] about all the times he punched the head off my mother".

The court previously heard from Lisa Kelly that she married John Butler in 2005 and they separated five years later.

The father and son, who had been drinking as part of a darts gathering at the pub across the road from their home in the hours prior, had been "taking sly digs" at each other according to other pub goers and wound up in a row at the entrance to the home, where John Butler pushed Stephen Butler outside and attempted to close the door on him.

In footage of interviews played to the court, Stephen Butler told Detective Garda Paul O'Flynn and Garda Sharon Ryan at Tramore Garda Station his father had had "one too many" at the pub, and had locked him out at least twice in weeks leading up to their violent encounter.

The behaviour had reminded Stephen of when he was younger andwhen his father would "hit my mother", he told gardaí, and he was "getting even more vexed thinking about that". 

The jury viewed CCTV footage on Monday showing the moments prior to John Butler's death, where Stephen Butler could be seen kicking in the door of their home during the row just after 2.20am on January 11 2020.

Reading from a transcript of the Garda interviews, State prosecutor Michel Delaney SC said that Stephen Butler told the guards he was "trying to kick" the door in.

When asked by gardaí "why not walk away" at any point during the interaction, which lasted for a number of minutes, Butler said: "I don't know, I can't answer that."

The court earlier heard that John Butler had tried to keep his son outside the house but the two exchanged punches, with the younger man dealing several to his father as the door opened.

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The jury was told of the how "guilty" Stephen Butler felt following the incident, as his "heart stopped" when he saw his father fall back, hit his head and collapse onto the floor of his hallway.

He thought his father may have been unconscious but grew concerned when he heard him "snorting" and feared he had broken his neck.

"I really didn't mean to hurt him," Stephen Butler told gardaí in an interview, adding that he "got a fright when I saw the blood on the wall."

The trial has heard from the accused's mother, medical experts and numerous locals who witnessed events on the night of John Butler's death, one of whom said they heard Stephen Butler challenge his father to "come out and fight me" during their row at the front door.

Another local recalled how they heard John Butler telling Stephen Butler "You're no son of mine", prior to them trading blows.

The trial is expected to conclude this week. At its outset, the prosecution told the jury they must decide whether there was "an intent to either kill or cause serious injury" on Stephen Butler's part, and that any attack does not have to be premeditated to qualify as murder.

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