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Stabbing case Jury must decide whether teenager produced knife in lead up to student's murder, court hears

The 16-year-old accused went on trial on Friday at the Central Criminal Court on a single charge of the production of the knife in relation to the incident

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Victim: Cameron Blair

Victim: Cameron Blair

Victim: Cameron Blair

A jury must decide whether a teenager produced a knife "capable of inflicting serious injury" in the course of a dispute at a house party where 20-year-old college student Cameron Blair was murdered, the Central Criminal Court heard today.

The jury panel was told earlier this week that the events related to "a tragic situation" where Cameron Blair died at Cork University Hospital (CUH) on January 16, 2020 after being stabbed in the neck and another juvenile had already pleaded guilty to his murder.

The 16-year-old accused, who cannot be named because he is a minor, went on trial on Friday at the Central Criminal Court on a single charge of the production of the knife in relation to the incident in Cork city on January 16, 2020.

He has pleaded not guilty to producing an article capable of inflicting serious injury in the course of a dispute, to wit a knife, in a manner likely to unlawfully intimidate another person.

Before the State opened its case today, the juvenile pleaded guilty to committing violent disorder with two other persons present together, using or threatening to use unlawful violence, and such conduct taken together would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at Bandon Road in Cork city to fear for his or another person's safety at the said place on January 16, 2020.

Opening the prosecution case today, John Fitzgerald SC said the accused boy "comes to court presumed innocent of the remaining charge that he is facing" and his presumption of innocence remained throughout the trial.

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Gardai at the scene in Bandon Road, Cork, where Cameron Blair was stabbed. Photo: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

Gardai at the scene in Bandon Road, Cork, where Cameron Blair was stabbed. Photo: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

Gardai at the scene in Bandon Road, Cork, where Cameron Blair was stabbed. Photo: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

Counsel told the jury that one must consider each charge separately so the fact that the accused had offered a guilty plea to the first count earlier today "did not mean anything" in relation to his presumption of innocence on the second charge. "You must treat it entirely separately," he stressed.

In relation to the remaining offence against the accused, Mr Fitzgerald told the jurors they had to consider whether he had produced a knife capable of inflicting serious injury in the course of the dispute.

Outlining the facts of the case, Mr Fitzgerald said the jurors would be asked to consider events related to Thursday January 16 last year, where three students, one of them a barman, had lived at a rented house on Bandon Road on the south side of Cork city centre.

He added: "There was a lot of student accommodation in the area and the significance of the date is that it was the last night of UCC Freshers' Week, which is a week of celebration before the term starts."

The prosecution barrister said it seemed that Thursday was the night amongst the student population in Cork city where they went out to socialise.

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Detailing the evidence that will be heard, Mr Fitzgerald said a large number of students were invited to a house party at Bandon Road on January 16.

Amongst those students, the lawyer said, was Cameron Blair, who was friends with the barman in the house. The barman had invited the deceased to the party and the jury would hear evidence from him.

The barrister went on to tell the court that Cameron was originally from Bandon, which is 15 to 20 miles west of Cork city. He described the deceased as a tall and athletic man, who was studying chemical engineering at Cork Institute of Technology (CIT).

The deceased had left his home in Bandon with friends on the afternoon of January 16 and travelled to his student accommodation in Bishopstown on the outskirts of Cork city.

Mr Fitzgerald said the evidence will be that the four friends went to Cameron's apartment, where they had some drinks until around 6.30pm that evening before getting a taxi to the party at Bandon Road.

"A number of groups arrived there in the evening, somewhere in the region of between 30 and 40 people were in the house," he remarked.

At around 7pm, Mr Fitzgerald said an older man in his forties was "very drunk" and had pushed his way into the party at Bandon Road.

"The latch wasn't working properly so it was easy to do," he said, adding that the older man was "working under the impression" that he knew someone who lived there.

There will be evidence, counsel said, that Cameron had pushed him out of the house on one occasion during the night but he kept coming back. However, the barman intervened, punched the man and he fell to the ground, he said.

This incident, said Mr Fitzgerald, was seen by three males, including the accused, who weren't invited to the party but were standing outside the house.

The group of three challenged the occupant of the house and some words were exchanged. However, Cameron intervened and said "they were all right and to let them come in" and the barman allowed the others into the party.

"They had some drinks, they weren't part of the student population and initially everything went reasonably well. They had their photo taken at the party," he continued.

At one stage in the night, a person at the party asked "the three lads" if they would know anywhere to get some weed or cannabis.

One male out of the group knew someone and rang his two friends to come to the party with some cannabis. An arrangement was made that the two friends would be paid €50 in return for three grams of cannabis.

However, when the two friends arrived with the cannabis, the purchaser of the cannabis was concerned it did not amount to three grams, which introduced "an element of tension", said Mr Fitzgerald. "A weighing scales was produced and more cannabis was given as it was short," he said.

Following this, there was a sense of grievance that too much cannabis had been given to the purchaser, said counsel.

"A misunderstanding resulted in a sense of grievance that not enough cannabis had been given and that too much was then given to compensate," he explained. The important effect of that, said Mr Fitzgerald, was that there was an element of bad feeling on both sides.

Around 9pm, the barman wanted everyone out of the house and specifically "uninvited people". "To achieve this he told everyone they had to leave," he said.

"The uninvited guests left but there was not enough movement and some tension as to whether the party was really over or whether the uninvited guests were being asked to go," he indicated,

The group of three which included the accused, were outside the house and tried to get back in.

Cameron, who was an athletic person, was helping the barman to keep them out of the house.

Mr Fitzgerald said the trial will hear that the accused had left a phone charger inside the house, which was passed out to him, as well as some cannabis which he wanted to get.

Outlining the circumstances of the night, Mr Fitzgerald said there was "some pushing and shoving" at the front door and the accused and the juvenile, who has already pleaded guilty to Cameron's murder, were trying to get back into the house.

However, Cameron and the barman were trying to stop them. "Witnesses portrayed Cameron as trying to keep matters calm, trying to help his friends and trying to resolve the situation as a peacemaker," he said.

At some point, the barrister said the juvenile who had pleaded guilty to murdering Cameron produced a knife and the accused had also allegedly produced a second knife in the course of the exchange at the door.

"What is not in dispute is that [the juvenile who has pleaded guilty to murdering Cameron] stuck a knife in the deceased's neck," he said. "It happened so quickly that Cameron went back into the house not realising that he had been stabbed and not realising how grave his fatal injuries were.

He collapsed quickly, lost consciousness and the emergency services were alerted," said Mr Fitzgerald.

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Farewell: The remains of Cameron Blair are carried from St Mary’s Church, Bandon. Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

Farewell: The remains of Cameron Blair are carried from St Mary’s Church, Bandon. Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

Farewell: The remains of Cameron Blair are carried from St Mary’s Church, Bandon. Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

Counsel also indicated to the jury that the emergency services got the call before 9.30pm and Cameron was brought by ambulance to CUH. However, he did not regain consciousness and was pronounced dead an hour later at 10.20pm

The court heard further evidence will be that a number of people ran from the scene but the accused had returned to the house, where he was seen by some occupants from the party and pointed out to gardai. "They chased after him and arrested him," he said.

Mr Fitzgerald said the case was not about whether [the other juvenile] had stabbed Cameron "because we know he did as he has pleaded guilty to his murder."

He said it was not about what [the second juvenile in the group] had done on the night. "It is about what [the accused] is alleged to have done," he said, adding: "The remaining issue being whether he produced the knife in the course of the evening."

The case continues on Tuesday before Mr Justice David Keane and a jury of eight men and four women. It is expected to last three weeks.

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