manslaughter verdict 'He should have got more', says Azzam dad as teenager's killer sentenced to 7.5 years
THE father of a teenager who was stabbed to death in a Dublin park during a row over a stolen bike has said his 17-year-old killer "deserves more than he got" after he was sentenced to seven and a half years detention for manslaughter.
Mr Justice Paul McDermott delivered the sentence at the Central Criminal Court yesterday after hearing emotional statements from the parents of Azzam Raguragui (18).
Azzam died after the defendant stabbed him five times during a melée in Finsbury Park, Dundrum, Dublin 14 on May 10, 2019.
The trial heard that one of the wounds severed an artery and caused massive blood loss - which led to his death.
Azzam's parents Hajiba and Abdul said they wanted to do something good for their communities when they moved to Ireland and are proud of what their children have achieved.
Hajiba repeatedly asked why her "kind" son was taken from her in an argument over a bicycle, "something cheap".
She said she wants justice for her "loving, kind, gentle, well-behaved, faithful and loyal son" and accused her son's killer of having "no regard for human life".
Abdul said that he can't get the image out of his head of the killer on CCTV celebrating and "high-fiving" with friends after the fatal attack.
"In addition to losing my son in a heinous crime I also lost myself, my wife and two kids as we have never been the same," he added.
The 17-year-old defendant, who cannot be identified because he is a minor, was found not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter by a jury in September.
He had previously offered to plead guilty to manslaughter but the Director of Public Prosecutions rejected the plea.
Mr Justice McDermott yesterday said the jury's verdict means that the prosecution had not proved beyond reasonable doubt that the accused inflicted the fatal wound after Mr Raguragui fell to the ground having tried to run away from the fight.
He said the fatal wound was inflicted during a fight involving two groups of teenagers and that the accused believed he was acting in self-defence or in defence of his friends.
However, the judge said that the accused brought the knife, adding: "Any person who equips themselves with a dangerous weapon and uses it in the circumstances described can only expect a court to view that as a seriously aggravating factor."
A further aggravating factor was his failure to seek assistance although he knew he had repeatedly stabbed and wounded Mr Raguragui. He showed a "callous disregard to the predicament of the deceased at the time", the judge said.
He also noted that the defendant pursued Mr Raguragui having already inflicted the fatal wound, and assaulted him in a "cowardly" way while Mr Raguragui lay in the foetal position on the ground.
He further pointed to the defendant's attempt to dispose of evidence by throwing away the knife and CCTV footage which showed him assembling with friends shortly afterwards where "he does not appear to be in any way shocked or to regret what he had done".
"He did not know at that stage that the wounds were fatal, but what he had done was in any view shocking and disturbing."
Mitigating factors included his early guilty plea, cooperation with gardaí in helping them to retrieve the knife and his young age at the time of the offence.
The judge sentenced the accused to seven years and six months, backdated to when he was found guilty of manslaughter on September 18.
His mother, father and brother joined the defendant for a group hug after the judge delivered his sentence.
Azzam's family left the courtroom quietly and convened in a family room.
Azzam's father Abdul told the Herald that his family felt the sentence was not sufficient.
"We are not happy or satisfied from the beginning about the outcome," Mr Raguragui said.
"We feel as though we lost the case since they changed it from murder to manslaughter.
"By this light sentence, they are encouraging young generations to kill each other.
"To be honest he deserves more than what he got," Mr Raguragui added.
In his statement delivered in court yesterday, Mr Raguragui broke down frequently as he described how proud he is of his eldest son, a "caring and loving" boy with a "great personality" who supported his parents and siblings.
"He was handsome, athletic, funny, honest and truly enjoyed his life. He had a lot of friends who witnessed his respect and kindness.
"The first thing everyone would notice about Azzam was his smile.
"I never remember him without that smile, he was the light of the house. The brightness in every room. But suddenly that brightness is now gone."
He said he is haunted by his son's final moments, "a short, sharp knife shredding his body", and by the CCTV footage showing his son's killer celebrating and "high-fiving" with friends after the fatal assault.
"His precious life can never be returned," he said. "His chair will always be empty around our dinner table."
Mrs Raguragui said it is hard to talk about her loss.
"Azzam was always a loving, kind, gentle, well-behaved, faithful and loyal son who comes from an excellent family, well-respected in the Muslim community and in Irish society."
He supported people in need, she said, volunteering to work with elderly people in his neighbourhood and even clearing their driveways of ice and snow during the winter.
She described seeing Azzam in hospital, "covered in blood from head to toe. I couldn't believe that was my handsome son".
"Who can do that? It's not a human, it's an evil because he didn't do anything wrong."
She said that her dream when she came to Ireland was that her children would succeed and she is proud of what they have achieved.
But Azzam's dreams have all gone away. She said words cannot express the depth of her family's loss, adding: "It's hard for a mum to bury a son."
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