'choking me' | 

Murder accused (20) takes to stand at own trial telling jury that deceased threatened to kill mother

Dean Kerrie says he acted in self-defence after Jack Power (25) came into his family home

Dean Kerrie

Alison O'Riordan 

A 20-year-old murder accused has taken to the stand at his own trial, telling the jury that the deceased had kicked in the front door of his home, attacked him and threatened to kill his mother.

"I asked him to leave my house and to stop what he was doing. He started to kick me and I tried to move out of the way. I was trying to get out of his way, he ended up stabbed," Dean Kerrie, who was 17 at the time of the incident, told the Central Criminal Court today.

However Michael Delaney SC, prosecuting, put it to Mr Kerrie that it was "a pack of lies" to suggest 25-year-old Jack Power had "fallen on the knife" and submitted that the accused had instead deliberately stabbed him. Mr Kerrie said that Mr Power had "tried to kick the knife out of my hand. I went to move out of the way at the same time and then when he came in on top of me he lost his footing."

Counsel suggested to the accused that this was an act of retaliation and not an act of self-defence, which he denied.

Mr Kerrie (20), with an address at St Brigid's Square, Portarlington in Co Laois has pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr Power at Shanakiel, Dunmore East, Co Waterford on July 26, 2018.

Taking the stand today, Mr Kerrie told his defence counsel Ciaran O'Loughlin SC that he went to bed after midnight and woke up to "the noise of glass breaking". The accused looked out his window and saw someone standing by the sitting room window. He went into his brother's room, opened the window and saw Mr Power standing there. "Two seconds after that Jack Power came into the house. Jack Power kicked the front door in, we didn't have a key for the lock at the time so we used to put a chair against the door," said Mr Kerrie.

When he heard the door being kicked, Mr Kerrie said he went to leave the room but met Mr Power at the door to his brother's bedroom. "He grabbed me by the neck, he was choking me, I was dizzy on the ground. He threw me into the corner underneath the shelf," said Mr Kerrie.

When the accused came to after a few minutes, Mr Power was screaming in his mother's face saying that he was going to kill her and was pulling her backwards by the hair. "This was what he was doing when I came around," he added.

Mr Kerrie saw a knife on his brother's bed as he got up off the ground. "He was still grabbing mam by the hair. I asked him to leave my house and to stop what he was doing. He started to kick me and I tried to move out of the way. I was trying to get out of his way, he ended up stabbed," he said.

At this point, Mr Kerrie said that Mr Power stopped what he was doing, turned around and went out of the room. "He pulled his t-shirt up and looked down and there was blood. He turned around and kept walking out the front door," he said, adding that he closed the front door after Mr Power.

Mr Kerrie, who had blood on his face and hands, put the knife behind the sink on the draining board when he heard Mr Power's best friend, Christopher Lee, calling his name outside.

Christopher Lee PIC: Collins Courts

When asked by his counsel how a white and black handled knife ended up on the floor in the hallway, the accused said he must have picked the wrong knife from off the counter.

In the opening address, Mr Delaney said the jury would hear that a black and white handled knife was seized and swabbed for blood but "curiously no blood was found on the blade". The court heard gardai found a similar knife partially concealed on the draining board in the kitchen of the house, which did appear to have blood and it was found to contain Mr Power's DNA.

He said he put his mum in the attic when Mr Lee started breaking the windows with a golf club.

Under cross-examination, Mr Kerrie told Michael Delaney SC, prosecuting, that Mr Power was screaming at him through the window that night that he had broken the window of his car.

Mr Kerrie denied to the jury that he had damaged Mr Power's car saying: "He was telling me that he was going to kill me and would pull my head off my shoulders. He then kicked the door in".

The accused said a chair had been put up against the door for the previous few months as they were waiting to get a new lock on it.

When asked by Mr Delaney how he ended up stabbing Mr Power, the accused said: "When Jack Power let go of my mother he tried to kick me. I tried to get out of the way of his kick. He tried to kick the knife out of my hand. I went to move out of the way at the same time and then when he came in on top of me he lost his footing."

He was asked by counsel if he was telling the jury that this was an accidental stabbing. "Yes it was, I did not mean this," said Mr Kerrie.

Mr Delaney put it to him that it was "a pack of lies" to suggest that Mr Power had fallen on the knife. "That's what happened, I tried to get out of his way," he said.

Mr Delaney asked the accused why he had not told the arresting officer Sergeant Pat Kelly that the stabbing was an accident. "I gave a quick story. I was scared and didn't know what happened........I didn't mean to stab him. I was very frantic at the time and didn't know what to do or say......I wasn't thinking," he said.

The trial has heard that when he was arrested the accused told Sgt Kelly: "He should not have come into my house. I was asleep. I heard a smash, the front window breaking. He grabbed my mother. He started punching and kicking her. I grabbed a knife and stabbed him with it".

Mr Kerrie agreed that one would not usually expect to find a kitchen knife at the foot of someone's bed, which happened to be within his reach as he came to. The accused said he was not too sure how the knife came to be there.

The defendant denied that he had broken away as the scuffle between him and Mr Power came to an end and he had ran to the kitchen to get a knife.

Mr Delaney told the accused that he had deliberately stabbed Mr Power in the chest and there was nothing accidental about it. "That's not true," he said. He also denied deliberately hiding the knife behind the draining board in the kitchen and said he had just put it "out of the way".

He further denied he had a guilty mind about what had happened between him and Mr Power because he "planted" the wrong knife on the floor.

Recalling the alleged assault on him by Mr Power, Mr Kerrie said the fisherman had his hands around his neck and his feet were off the ground. The accused said he was not sure if there were marks on his neck.

Mr Delaney put it to the accused that the reason he can't remember if there were marks on his neck was because he was not choked by Mr Power, which Mr Kerrie denied.

The accused accepted that he could be heard shouting "I'll take your life, I hope you're dead. I'll take your life" in the background on the 999 call.

The barrister put it to the accused that it was "as plain as the nose on your face" that he was shouting this at Mr Power, who was lying on the footpath outside, as there had been only one person seriously injured that night. Mr Kerrie said he shouted this at Mr Lee to keep him out of the house as he was in fear of his life.

Counsel put it to him: "You weren't showing much fear there. You were belligerent and unrepentant. This was an act I suggest where you reveal your true demeanour". The accused replied: "I was only 17 years of age, these people were nearly ten years older than me. I didn't know what to do in the moment".

The lawyer said the words "I hope you are dead" were not consistent with an accidental stabbing, which the accused agreed with.

Instead, counsel went on to say that it was consistent with him stabbing Mr Power because he was vexed and had stabbed him deliberately. This was an act of retaliation, counsel told Mr Kerrie, and not an act of self-defence.

"I wasn't vexed. He was trying to kick the knife out of my hand. I was trying to get him to leave and he ended up stabbed," replied Mr Kerrie.

Later, the accused's friend Dylan Jones, who had shared a bed with Mr Kerrie that night, told Mr O'Loughlin, defending, that the deceased got Mr Kerrie on the ground that night and was saying "you're dead, you're dead".

The jury heard that Jones is currently serving time for three burglary offences, the first which occurred in August 2019, less than a month after this incident.

"I remember looking at Dean and could see he was in fear of his life. I begged him to get off him as he was only a child, I thought he was going to kill him," he continued.

Jones did not see Mr Kerrie stab the deceased that night. "I thought that night was going to be my last. All Dean done was defend himself. If he didn't I don't know whether he would be here today," said the witness.

Under cross-examination, Jones agreed with Mr Delaney that Mr Power must have been stabbed when he was swinging the accused's mother by the hair in the bedroom.

The witness said he had suffered from trauma in the aftermath of this event but agreed with counsel that "none of this trauma" had prevented him from breaking into other people's houses. "I know that wasn't right," he told the jury.

Opening the prosecution’s case last week, Mr Delaney said the jury may have to consider the issue of self defence in the trial.

The jury has already listened to a 999 recording of then-teenager Dean Kerrie telling a dispatcher "I'm actually so in fear of my life right now" after he said he stabbed Jack Power "by accident" and that the man had come "in the front door at him" and tried to hit him.

"I did it but I didn't mean to though," Dean Kerrie told the emergency services. "My life is going to be gone over him coming in here," he also said.

The murder trial has heard that Mr Power sustained a single stab wound to the front of the chest which penetrated his heart.

Retired Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis testified that the level of force involved in the stab wound was moderate. The witness agreed with defence counsel that, had the 25-year-old deceased been moving forward at the time, this would have contributed to the level of force.

The trial continues on Monday before Ms Justice Eileen Creedon and a jury of seven men and four women.

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