Angry scenes at close of murder trial as wife of slain man hurls bottle in court

Found guilty of murder: Josh Turner
Found guilty of murder: Josh Turner

One man was convicted of murder and a second of manslaughter for killing a man with an axe during an argument over a pedigree chihuahua.

Wayne Cluskey (25) of Mooretown, Ratoath, Co Meath was found not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter for the killing of Christopher Nevin at Tailteann Road, Navan on November 19, 2015.

Josh Turner (24), of the same address, was convicted of Mr Nevin's murder. 

Angry scenes greeted the verdicts with the wife of the dead man, Lisa Nevin, hurling a plastic water bottle in the direction of the two accused but instead hitting one of the defending junior barristers.

Gardai removed Ms Nevin from the court as she shouted at Wayne Cluskey: "You brought in the axe."

Outside the building, Mr Nevin's family and friends stood shouting while gardai kept the families of the convicted men inside.

Found guilty of manslaughter: Wayne Cluskey

The jury of nine men and three women reached both verdicts by ten to two majorities after more than two days of deliberations. Justice Patrick McCarthy thanked the jurors and told them they are exempt from jury duty for ten years.

He remanded Cluskey and Turner in custody until February 27 for a sentencing hearing.

Prosecuting counsel Michael O'Higgins SC said Mr Nevin's family will make a statement on that date.

Counsel for Wayne Cluskey asked for a prison governor's report to be supplied.

Found guilty of murder: Josh Turner

The jury sat through eight days of evidence during which CCTV of the assault on Mr Nevin, described as "savage" and "awful" by one barrister, was shown several times.

The State's main witness was Wayne Casserly, a close friend of Christopher Nevin and a friend of the two accused. Mr Casserly told the trial that Josh Turner had loaned Christopher Nevin a male chihuahua to breed with three female chihuahuas.

However, Nevin complained that the dog was "shooting blanks" as only one of the females got pregnant. A dispute arose over what Turner would be paid.

Mr Casserly and Christopher Nevin were so close that when Josh Turner wanted to speak to Christopher about payment for the dog, he called Wayne Casserly, knowing that the two would probably be together.

Turner and Nevin arranged to meet at Casserly's home on Tailteann Road. In his evidence to the trial, Turner said that Nevin had agreed to pay him. That was why, he said, he and Cluskey called to Tailteann Road that afternoon.

Turner and Cluskey arrived by car shortly before 2pm and Turner knocked on the window of the house. Casserly and Turner said that when Nevin answered the door, he had a hatchet in his hand. Cluskey told gardai the same thing during interviews days after the killing.

Turner said that Nevin was "roaring and shouting" and threatening to chop his head off. He said he backed away and suddenly Wayne Cluskey entered the fray.

Carrying an axe in his hand, Cluskey barreled into Nevin, dropped the axe and the two grappled on the ground.

As that fight continued down the driveway of the house, Josh Turner picked up the axe that Wayne Cluskey had dropped and used it to hit Mr Nevin several times, including blows to the head that Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis said caused his death.

Meanwhile, Cluskey got free, took the hatchet from Christopher Nevin's hands, and used it to strike him twice on the body.

Wayne Casserly called an ambulance and tried to resuscitate his friend. A passerby also stopped to help before paramedics arrived. He was pronounced dead in hospital some hours later.

Cluskey and Turner went voluntarily to Navan garda station four days later and admitted their roles in Nevin's death. Josh Turner claimed that he had lost all self control after Nevin threatened him with the hatchet and struck his friend Wayne Casserly with it as they struggled on the ground. Cluskey said that he was defending Turner when he ran in carrying the axe.

Justice McCarthy had told the jury that they should find Cluskey guilty of manslaughter if they believed that he thought he was defending Josh Turner but that he used unreasonable force in doing so. He said they should find Turner guilty of murder if they believed that he intended to kill or cause serious injury to Mr Nevin and that he had not lost all self control.

Both men will return to the Central Criminal Court on February 27.

Eoin Reynolds