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Fatal stabbing Teenager pointed knife at party-goers outside house where Cameron Blair was murdered, court told

Scott O'Connor (19) appeared at the court today for his sentence hearing

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Cameron Blair (Pic: Gerard McCarthy)

Cameron Blair (Pic: Gerard McCarthy)

Cameron Blair (Pic: Gerard McCarthy)

A teenage boy held a knife high above his head and pointed it at party-goers outside a house in Cork city where 20-year-old college student Cameron Blair was murdered, the Central Criminal Court was told on Monday.

The court also heard during today's sentence hearing that the now 19-year-old accused had pulled up his top, revealing his waistband, when his 14-year-old friend told him: "Give it to me, I'll shank one of them."

Evidence was also given that the defendant told gardai that he had earlier picked up the knife from the kitchen floor of the house "to scare" the others at the party but said he had no intention of using it.

Scott O'Connor, of Churchfield Square, Churchfield, Cork appeared at the court today for his sentence hearing, having pleaded guilty last January to committing violent disorder at Bandon Road in Cork on January 16, 2020. He has also pleaded guilty to producing an article capable of inflicting serious injury in the course of a dispute, to wit a knife, in a manner likely unlawfully to intimidate another person on the same occasion.

Cameron was a native of Ballinascarthy in west Cork and a second-year chemical engineering student at Cork Institute of Technology (CIT). He died at Cork University Hospital (CUH) on January 16, 2020 after being stabbed in the neck while attending a student party at a house in Cork city. Another juvenile has already pleaded guilty to his murder.

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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

At today's sentence hearing Inspector Martin Canny, of Henry Street Garda Station, detailed the background to the case. He told prosecution counsel Anne Rowland SC that the offences occurred on January 16, 2020 outside a terraced house on Bandon Road in Cork, which was being rented by a number of students.

Insp Canny said the students had decided to have a small pre-drinks party as part of UCC Freshers' Week. The intention was that drinks would be consumed at the house and then the students would go into a nightclub in town to socialise further, he said.

Outlining the events that led up to the fatal stabbing, Insp Canny said there were approximately fifty people "coming and going" at the party at various times between 6.30pm and 9.30pm that evening.

Ms Rowland said that a very drunk homeless man, who had met up with three youths a short distance down the road, started banging at the door of the house around 7pm.  The homeless man was asked to leave after banging several times on the door of the party but as the latch of the door was damaged, it could be easily pushed in. One man who was renting the property told the drunk man to leave and he fell onto the ground, said Insp Canny.

The three teenagers which included O'Connor, a 17-year-old boy and a 14-year-old boy had remonstrated with the student who had refused admittance to the drunk man, said Ms Rowland. "Cameron in an effort to diffuse the situation invited the three young youths into the party and they sat on a couch for part of the evening," she added.

Some students at the party spoke to the group and Dave Sheehan, another party-goer, had taken a photograph of the three teenagers, which was later shared on social media. Insp Canny said O'Connor was distinguishable as the tallest of the three boys and they had consumed alcohol at the party. The youngest boy was in the centre of the picture and on the right of the photo was the third boy who is now serving a life sentence for murdering Cameron, the court heard.

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At one point in the night, one of the party-goers approached O'Connor and asked him if he could buy some weed or cannabis from him. O'Connor made a phone call to certain individuals and was told they could get three grams for €50.

One of the college students in the rented accommodation, Darren O'Leary, became concerned that the three teenagers were "out of place" and not known by the others at the party so it was decided that they should be asked to leave. "Rather than hurt their feelings, Mr O'Leary indicated to all the other students at the party that they should pretend to leave," said Ms Rowland, adding that it was then indicated to O'Connor and his two friends that the party was over. There was also a minor dispute over the amount of cannabis handed over, the court heard.

The three teenagers were outside on the footpath, said Ms Rowland, and the youngest of the boys told the people inside the house that he had left his phone charger inside but no charger could be found belonging to him. Cameron was standing at the door and "tasked" with not letting anybody else enter the house. "If the lock had been working, there would not have been a problem and the door would have been closed," said Insp Canny. The court heard that a "scuffle" then broke out at the front door.

During the evening, Ms Rowland said that O'Connor and his two co-accused had gone into the kitchen and armed themselves with knives. "They held onto those knives for quite awhile but concealed them on their persons," she remarked.

Ms Rowland said that some of the witnesses who were at the party had described events outside the front door. She said Tiernan Quinn had indicated that he had come to the front door and saw the person who had ordered the cannabis coming out as O'Connor began to walk away. Mr Quinn said aloud "they better not come back" but then O'Connor returned and confronted Mr Quinn with Cameron in between them. O'Connor had told Mr Quinn: "Don't be saying that, they are my buddies" as he and the 14-year-old tried to make their way into the house.

Mr Quinn told gardai that he saw O'Connor turn his back to him, pull up his top, revealing his waistband as the 14-year old said: "Give it to me, I'll shank one of them." Mr Quinn thought they were "joking around" and O'Connor and the 14-year-old started throwing punches. Mr Quinn was hit in the head by one of the punches and Cameron was trying "to break things up". A few seconds later, Mr Quinn said he saw O'Connor with a big knife with a white handle. Counsel said that Mr Quinn said he was shocked and ran out the back and jumped over the wall.

Another witness, Ms Rowland said, told gardai that he noticed O'Connor throw a punch at whoever was behind Cameron. The witness said O'Connor had the kitchen blade in his hand, which was held high above his head and he was "pointing it forwards and backwards" towards party-goers at the door. These individuals started screaming and ran out the back of the house.

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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

Ms Rowland said another witness said he saw "grappling" between the accused, the 14-year-old and Cameron. He said Cameron and Mr Quinn were trying to keep them out of the house when O'Connor produced the knife.

Another witness, counsel said, said he saw O'Connor and the younger boy with knives. "He described O'Connor holding a long kitchen knife and Cameron had his hands up against the jambs of the door trying to stop people. He said they had knives over Cameron's shoulder and were trying to get at the other man behind him and threatening the person behind Cameron," she said.

Ms Rowland said another witness gave an account that O'Connor was "waving" the knife around the place.

The third youth, who is serving life in prison for murdering Cameron, was at the edge of the footpath during the altercation when O'Connor and the youngest boy were trying to push their way into the house. He was brandishing the large knife in his hand before he suddenly "lunged" at Cameron, who was acting as the "peacemaker" on the night, said Ms Rowland.

In April 2020, a teenage boy, then aged 17, who murdered Cameron by plunging a knife into his neck received a life sentence that will be reviewed in 2032. The boy, who could not be named because he was a minor, pleaded guilty to murdering Cameron on Bandon Road in Co Cork on January 16, 2020.

After Cameron was fatally wounded, O'Connor "took off" with the juvenile who had inflicted the fatal wound, she said. O'Connor dumped his knife a short distance from the house and threw it over a garden wall.

During interviews, O'Connor admitted that he had the knife at one stage in the night and that he had later dropped it. Ms Rowland said that one of the students who rented a room in the house liked to cook and had been recently given a set of knives. The student had the knives in his bedroom on the night and was "fiddling" with them and Cameron may have fiddled with one, she said, adding that there was no indication that these were threats or anything like this.

Ms Rowland said that O'Connor had noticed knives in the bedroom and mentioned others playing with knives on the night.

Counsel said that O'Connor told gardai that he and his two friends went into the kitchen on the night and picked up a knife from the kitchen floor, which wasn't sharp, and put it into his left pocket.

Ms Rowland said that the defendant had described to gardai an argument he had with Mr Quinn, where they were both aggressive towards each other and had both "swung" at each other.

The white-handled knife with a bronze blaze was produced to the court and measured six inches in length.

Ms Rowland told the court that the maximum sentence for violent disorder is ten years in prison and five years for production of a knife.

The court heard that the teenager has no previous convictions but he had received a formal caution for assault that occurred when he was 14 years of age in October 2017, where he had broken a young male's nose at an underage disco.

Under cross-examination, Insp Canny agreed with Ronan Munro SC that Cameron was at all times the peacemaker that evening and "somewhat of a confused picture" had been presented of the night with some discrepancies in statements. The witness also agreed that some witnesses had identified his client as being calmer than his two friends. He further agreed that O'Connor told gardai that he had picked up the knife from the kitchen floor, had it "to scare them and had no intention of using it.

The lawyer said his client had cooperated with gardai as he was aware that there was a picture of him on social media.

A probation report was made available to the court in which O'Connor said he will always regret the circumstances of that evening and that Cameron was one of the nicest people at the party. The defendant also said he wished to offer his sincere apologies to the victim's family.

In mitigation, Mr Munro said his client had indicated that he was not waving around a knife but accepted that it was produced. The court rose for a while after Mr Justice David Keane said he was struggling to reconcile what O'Connor had told the probation officer with what he had witnessed in CCTV footage.

When the court sat again, Ms Rowland said that the prosecution did not accept that O'Connor's  interviews with gardai fully reflected his participation in events and he was "not being frank" in relation to certain events such as where witnesses said he was "waving" the knife.

Dismissing the judge's suggestion of a Newton hearing - a separate hearing to resolve a conflict on the facts in a case - Mr Munro said the court must proceed on the prosecution case and his client had admitted to gardai that he produced a knife to scare other people.

Mr Munro asked the court to take into account that his client had never been in prison, his relative youth and the guilty pleas.

Mr Justice Keane remanded the defendant on continuing bail until July 5, when he will be sentenced.

On June 16 this month, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) discontinued the charge against a third defendant, a teenage boy accused of producing a knife during a dispute at a house party where 20-year-old college student Cameron Blair was murdered.

The now 16-year-old accused, who cannot be named because he is a minor, went on trial on May 28 in Croke Park charged with the production of a knife at a house on Bandon Road in Cork city on January 16, 2020. He had been on trial at the Central Criminal Court for almost three weeks before the case ended.

The DPP will enter a nolle prosequi against the teenager in due course meaning that the State will not be proceeding with the charge of producing a knife against the juvenile.

The accused, who was 14 at the time of the incident, had 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 on May 28, the boy 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 the same occasion. The juvenile was remanded on continuing bail until July 12.

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