Inquest hearing | 

Temple Bar ‘one-punch’ victim was ‘looking for a fight’ the night he was killed

Scene in Temple Bar and Gareth O'Connor (inset)

Seán McCárthaighSunday World

A young Dublin man who died following a “one punch” assault in the Temple Bar area of Dublin seven years ago had been “looking for a fight” and started a violent affray after being asked to leave a homeless man on the street alone, an inquest has heard.

Gareth O’Connor (27) was assaulted during a row which broke out involving a number of men on Cow’s Lane shortly before 9pm on September 10, 2015.

The father of three with an address at Harelawn Avenue, Clondalkin was rushed by ambulance to St James’s Hospital but was pronounced dead the following evening when a decision was taken to switch off his life support equipment.

Detective Garda Christopher Fitzgerald told a sitting of Dublin District Coroner’s Court that statements from several witnesses had allowed gardaí to piece together what had happened as CCTV cameras in the area had not captured the actual assault on Mr O’Connor who had been in the city centre for several hours with friends.

Det Garda Fitzgerald said the group had come into contact earlier that evening with two other males on Dame Lane whom they encountered again on Cow’s Lane.

He said one witness described Mr O’Connor as being “aggressive” and “real smart”.

The inquest heard that the male who subsequently struck the deceased had said to his victim: “I know what you are doing. You are always trying to start a fight.”

Mr O’Connor’s assailant told gardaí that he had asked his victim to stop bullying a homeless man and he believed Mr O’Connor was “loud, dominating and getting off on driving fear into people.”

He stressed that he would not have struck Mr O’Connor first and only acted in self-defence.

Det Garda Fitzgerald said Mr O’Connor had struck the first blow before he was hit with a punch to the face that knocked him to the ground.

Another male assaulted this man at that stage because he told gardaí he thought Mr O’Connor had been killed.

Mr O’Connor’s attacker was also knocked unconscious and evidence was heard that he was struck up to 30 times with a crutch when others got involved in the row.

A different witness described how Mr O’Connor had said just before the row broke out that he was going to hit a man wearing a white shirt.

The same person said Mr O’Connor had been “at everyone that day” because he thought “he could take on the world.”

He told gardaí that he was “100 per cent” certain that the deceased had started the row and had been “looking for a fight.”

Det Garda Fitzgerald said the witness had also told him that Mr O’Connor had remarked; “I’m going to start on the wrong person one day and they’re going to leave me for dead.”

The detective said it was understood that Mr O’Connor had consumed cocaine and a large bottle of sambuca on the day.

Evidence was heard that another witness, who described the deceased as “a trouble maker,” also got hit after he tried to intervene in the row.

The inquest heard gardaí had discovered as part of their investigation that Mr O’Connor had also been involved in an earlier incident on the same day when he was with some friends on the Liffey boardwalk.

Det Garda Fitzgerald said witnesses had claimed that Mr O’Connor while going to the toilet near a bin on the boardwalk had urinated on the footwear of a male sleeping on a bench.

One witness said he believed the incident had been accidental.

Det Garda Fitzgerald said the man on the bench was struck by others in Mr O’Connor’s group after he had attempted to hit Mr O’Connor but missed.

The man ran away but was later caught by the group and punched on the ground by the deceased, the garda added.

The inquest heard that several men were arrested over the incident on Cow’s Lane and a file was sent to the DPP who directed that no criminal proceedings should result in relation to Mr O’Connor’s death.

The then State pathologist who carried out a post-mortem on the victim’s body in 2015, Marie Cassidy, said the autopsy was “very complicated.”

Prof Cassidy said Mr O’Connor had some bruising by his left eye and behind his left ear but had suffered no fractures to his skull.

She said he had suffered bleeding around and inside his brain which would have caused him to become unconscious rapidly which would have impaired his breathing.

The post-mortem results showed he had consumed a moderate amount of cocaine and almost four times the legal limit of alcohol for motorists.

Prof Cassidy said there could have been many explanations for the bleeding but she concluded that it was a combination of the effects of a minor head injury together with intoxication from cocaine and alcohol which “caused a massive explosion inside his head.”

She explained that such drugs on their own could cause spontaneous bleeding in the cavity of a person’s brain.

In response to a query from the coroner, Cróna Gallagher, Prof Cassidy said it was difficult to say if Mr O’Connor would have died if he had not consumed alcohol or cocaine.

The pathologist told Mr O’Connor’s partner, Natalie Devitt, that she had seen no evidence to suggest a weapon had been used on the victim.

Ms Devitt welcomed the post-mortem results as she said she had always been “baffled at how one punch could put him down.”

Dr Cassidy advised a jury of three women and three men that a verdict of unlawful killing should not be considered as it was not clear that a third party had directly caused his death.

Based on the evidence the jury returned a narrative verdict.


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