brawl over | 

Man convicted of ‘savage’ attack in Longford pub which left victim in pool of blood

Mr Baxter said as he desperately tried to fend off his alleged attackers, he saw his life flash before him.

Edward 'Blondie' Stokes

Edward 'Blondie' Stokes

Edward 'Blondie' Stokes

Liam CosgroveSunday World

A father of six has been found guilty of striking another man up to 20 times with a blunt instrument during a "savage and brutal" attack inside a pub over four years ago.

Edward 'Blondie' Stokes (32) Ferriskill, Granard, Co Longford was convicted at Longford Circuit Criminal Court today of carrying out the attack on 27-year-old part time farmer John Baxter at Kane's Bar, Main Street, Granard, Co Longford on October 7, 2018.

Mr Baxter sustained lacerations to his head, bruising to both arms and legs after being left in a pool of blood on the floor of the north Longford establishment.

Mr Baxter, in a statement given to gardaí less than 24 hours after the alleged incident said he had been drinking in Kane’s pub from around midday.

At around 1:30pm, the court heard how Mr Baxter was allegedly set upon by two men, one of which included the accused Edward ‘Blondie’ Stokes.

Mr Baxter said one of the men currently not before the courts entered the bar, gesticulated towards him before saying: ‘Come on John, come on out’.

“He pointed to the front door. He put his hand on me and I pushed it back. He then punched me into the jaw with his left first and punched me again.”

Video footage of the near three minute incident was played to the jury over the course of a nine-day trial which showed Mr Baxter picking up a stool to defend himself as two men rained down a series of blows on the Cavan man.

Edward 'Blondie' Stokes

Mr Baxter, in his statement, said he punched the man at least once before the latter allegedly told him: “I will kill you, I will kill you.”

Mr Baxter said due to Mr Stokes’ advancing years, he told him to bring another man in his place to the bar to fight instead.

He said that resulted in him being attacked for a second time, something which forced him to retaliate by launching punches of his own.

“If I didn’t stand up for myself, he was going to pound me like a side of beef,” the court heard via Mr Baxter’s statement.

He told gardaí how another man then arrived into the pub and struck him across the head with a wooden bat before one of the men grabbed the implement and continued to swing it at Mr Baxter’s head and upper body.

The pair, he said, exited the pub seconds later, before two men including the accused entered armed with weapons.

“I was looking down at the floor with my hand on my head when I heard the front door opening,” he said.

“I looked up and received a blow to the head. As I was falling I saw Blondie Edward Stokes. Blondie had a pick handle. I felt really dizzy and as I fell, I pulled the table over on top of myself.”

Mr Baxter said as he desperately tried to fend off his alleged attackers, he saw his life flash before him.

“As I was being beaten, I felt I would never see my son and family ever again,” he said, adding how both men continued to beat him while he lay defenceless on the ground.

In the witness box, however, Mr Baxter told defence counsel Barry White SC, he could not positively identify Edward ‘Blondie’ Stokes as one of his alleged assailants.

He said he had been drinking for the entire week running up to the alleged incident and despite having made an initial statement of complaint, his efforts to retract it came up short.

Edward 'Blondie' Stokes

“My memory has like pictures and glimpses of it,” he said.

“I was second guessing the whole time and couldn’t be 100pc sure.”

Mr Baxter subsequently filed an affidavit to a Kildare law firm in September 2019.

In that sworn document, he stated he couldn’t “confirm categorically” the alleged suspects identified by him in his initial garda statement were those responsible for the attack on him.

A former Longford based garda also told the court how he was able to identify Mr Stokes on CCTV footage carrying out the attack within seconds of viewing the recording.

Sgt Ollie Walsh said he had been called by Garda Peter Wallace in October 2022 to examine footage taken from the scene.

Having been stationed in Granard for two and a half years between June 2014 and early 2017, Sgt Walsh said he had no prior knowledge of the aforementioned incident or of the alleged assailants involved.

Sgt Walsh added he was basing that identification on Mr Stokes' “goatee style beard”, the accused man's build and gait.

He said his judgement was also based on his own face to face interactions with Mr Stokes during his time in Granard.

Barry White, SC, defending, said Sgt Walsh had been simply mistaken in identifying his client as being one of the men captured on CCTV, a claim which was flatly denied by the garda.

The trial also heard details of how a still taken from CCTV footage appeared to match a photograph taken of Mr Stokes' inner forearm showing the tattoo carrying the name 'Stokes'.

That, the trial, heard, had been etched onto Mr Stokes' arm prior to the October 7 incident.

Details surrounding Mr Stokes' arrest in January 2019 were also read into court.

During the course of an interview conducted at Granard Garda Station, Mr Stokes was questioned as to his suspected involvement in the alleged incident.

“I put it to you that you are the man on the right with the (baseball) hat and bar,” said Garda Enda Curran.

“That's not me, that's a man with a hat and a coat zipped up,” replied Mr Stokes.

“That's not me.”

In his closing statement to the jury, prosecution counsel Shane Geraghty BL said there was no denying Mr Baxter was the victim of a "savage and brutal" assault, insisting the CCTV footage and the statement of complaint taken by gardaí was an "accurate, reliable and cogent" account of the guilt of Mr Stokes.

He said despite inconsistencies in Mr Baxter's testimony there was an "absolute avalanche" of consistency in terms of what was contained in the latter's statement to gardaí and the CCTV footage.

Mr White, in response, insisted there was simply not enough evidence upon which to convict his client and questioned why investigating gardaí had not canvassed other members of the force to identify alleged suspects on the video footage.

After an hour and 20 minutes, a jury of five men and five women returned unanimous verdicts on all four counts.

Judge Kenneth Connolly thanked the jury for the dedication in which they carried out their civic duties and excused them from further jury service for a period of five years.

Mr Stokes was remanded in custody for the purposes of sentencing to a sitting of Longford Circuit Criminal Court on Friday.

Today's Headlines

More Courts

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices

WatchMore Videos