Emotional scenes as Irishman convicted of Tenerife murder faces 15 years in Spanish jail
Published 01/12/2012 | 05:00
IRISHMAN Keith Burke was last night convicted of murdering a ferry worker during a street brawl in Tenerife and will be jailed for at least 15 years.
A jury unanimously found Dubliner Burke (21) guilty of stabbing Abraham Baez (24) in the neck with a kitchen knife. Burke wept after a court translator told him he had been convicted of murder.
Judge Fernando Paredes will sentence him to between 15 and 20 years in a written judgment at a later date.
Members of the Dubliner's family, sitting in the public gallery, cried out in shock when they realised he had been found guilty of murder.
As he was led away to the cells in handcuffs, Burke told his relatives: "Don't worry, I will be okay." But they were all in tears after the jury of five men and four women gave their verdict following seven hours of deliberation.
Burke's then girlfriend Sara Stuart (30) was convicted of wounding the Spaniard's girlfriend Laura Negrin.
But she was cleared of the more serious charge of wounding Ms Negrin by hitting her around the head with a rock.
Ms Stuart, who was in tears as the verdicts were read out, has previously spent nine months on remand. She is expected to receive a suspended sentence.
Outside court, the victim's mother Maria Teresa said: "Nothing will ever bring my wonderful son Abraham back."
Abraham had been described in court as "hard-working and loved by everyone".
Burke's defence lawyer Avelino Miguez urged the judge to jail the Irishman for 15 years, the minimum tariff for murder, pointing out he was only 18 at the time of the crime.
The tragedy happened as both couples were making their way home from separate nights out in the party resort of Playa de las Americas on April 30, 2010.
Mr Burke and his girlfriend of nine months Ms Stuart, also from Dublin, had arrived on the island three weeks earlier looking for casual work.
The Irishman had drunk wine, beer, whiskey, vodka, and 'sex on the beach' cocktails and had taken two tranquilliser tablets on the night of the killing, the court heard.
Ms Stuart had downed a bottle of wine, 10 vodkas, beers and shots during a 10-hour drinking session, while the Spaniards had drunk at least 10 whiskies each.
The fight broke out outside the Hotel Tropical Playa when the victim's girlfriend opened a car door, accidentally banging it into Ms Stuart.
Mr Burke and Mr Baez exchanged blows and the Spaniard, who was stronger and bigger, got the better of the Irishman.
Mr Burke then went off to the couple's holiday apartment and returned moments later carrying a kitchen knife with a jagged 9cm blade.
He stabbed Mr Baez in the face and shoulder before plunging the blade in the victim's neck, severing his carotid artery.
The Spaniard stumbled off, with blood pouring from the wounds, and collapsed 45 metres away in the reception of the hotel.
He died from massive blood loss despite the efforts of paramedics to revive him.
While the two men were fighting, Ms Stuart was brawling with Ms Negrin, who ended up requiring three stitches in her forehead. The Irish couple were arrested at the scene shortly after the fight.
During the week-long trial, Burke denied stabbing Mr Baez.
But the jury was read excerpts from daily love letters he had written from prison to Ms Stuart in which he confessed to killing Mr Baez.
In one he wrote "I killed him but only in self-defence"; and in another "I will be sentenced to 15 years and to be honest I deserve it".