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sentence hearing Teen who kicked man to death had been left by his mother with his abusive step-father, court told

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A teenager who kicked a defenceless man to death in an "unprovoked murder" in a "dark lane" had been left by his mother with his abusive step-father before being taken into State care, the Central Criminal Court heard today.

The 17-year-old, who can't be named because he is a minor, pleaded guilty last month to the murder of Romanian national Claudio Robu (39) on a laneway off Madison Road, South Circular Road, Dublin 8 on September 14, 2020. The accused was 16 at the time of the murder.

At a sentence hearing today, Brendan Grehan SC for the accused told Mr Justice Paul McDermott that his client's father died when he was young. His mother later left him with his step-father but the boy was taken into care months before the murder when his step-father was charged with assaulting him, causing him harm.

He then stayed at a number of foster homes before going to a care facility for young people in Dublin weeks before the fatal attack on Mr Robu.

Mr Grehan said a mental health report submitted to the court said his client is "unable to use language to express his emotions and can't identify or articulate the multitude of emotions he has suppressed over 17 years of neglect".

The report further states that he had no appropriate parenting relationships, had not had the benefit of a nurturing environment and came from an "abusive home".

"He cannot articulate the loss or loneliness or rejections he has experienced, the only expressive language available to him appears to be anger."

The report said the teenager had described how he would, "keep everything inside and then explode when he is pushed to his limit".

Inspector Brian Hoey told Dean Kelly SC for the Director of Public Prosecutions that gardaí were alerted to Mr Robu's murder when another resident of the care home came to Kilmainham garda station at about 1.15am on September 14 last year and said he had witnessed someone being killed.

He then took gardaí to the laneway where they discovered Mr Robu at about 1.24am with severe injuries to his face. He was "gasping for air" with shallow breaths and was surrounded by a pool of blood.

Assistant State Pathologist Dr Heidi Okkers would later cite the cause of death as blunt force trauma to the head.

The witness told gardaí that his housemate had come home at around midnight and told him he had attacked someone on the street and had stolen his Samsung phone.

The witness said his housemate then led him to the laneway where they found Mr Robu lying on the ground. He said he saw his housemate repeatedly kick and stomp on the victim who initially groaned but after being stomped on four times made no sound.

The accused and the witness went back to the care home where the accused washed his blood-stained runners and changed his clothes before going back out. The witness then ran to the garda station to reveal what he had seen.

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During garda interviews the accused initially blamed his housemate for the assault but Mr Grehan said that his client now accepts full responsibility and is not suggesting that anybody else was involved.

Inspector Hoey said gardaí also do not believe the other boy had anything to do with it, a view that he said is backed up by CCTV evidence.

The court heard that the deceased's family all live outside Ireland. They wrote a joint impact statement in which Mr Robu's brother Emmanuel said he left Ireland after his brother's murder because he was "traumatised and afraid".

He said that when he summoned the courage to call his mother and tell her Claudio was dead she "suffered shock leading to depression and emotional distress".

She goes to the cemetery every day, he said, and cries: "Why didn't I get to see you one more time so I could say goodbye?"

Mr Grehan said his client has had great difficulty in accepting what he did and "the manner in which he did it". He read out an apology penned by the teenager in which he said he is "sorry for what I have done". He said he knows what it is like to lose someone in your family and understands what the Robu family is going through.

He added: "I feel guilt for what I have done that will stay with me for the rest of my life."

He said his time in custody has given him time to "think about my behaviour and change".

He is, Mr Grehan said, "incredulous he could cause so much harm" and accepts that he identified Mr Robu as someone he could steal from and without provocation, beat him and took his mobile phone.

Since going to Oberstown his unit manager has noted "significant and positive changes" since last December. Reports drawn up for the court suggest he is "more calm and measured" and is willing and motivated to receive professional support.

Mr Grehan said he accepts that the court is dealing with an unprovoked murder of a man who could not defend himself due to intoxication, "and died a quite horrible and lonely death in a dark lane".

Counsel asked, however, that the judge have regard to his client's early guilty plea, his apology, lack of previous convictions and his abandonment and anger issues. He said his client had abused various drugs "as a coping mechanism" and was intoxicated on the day of the offence.

Mr Justice McDermott said there is a decision expected in a separate juvenile case before the Court of Appeal that might have a bearing on sentencing in this case and therefore he adjourned the hearing until May 25.

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