Friday 21 October 2016

Former rugby captain died from blunt force trauma to his head and face, murder trial hears

Alison O'Riordan

Published 13/10/2015 | 14:30

Gardai at the scene in Terenure, Dublin; Inset: Cathal Sweeney in his rugby days
Gardai at the scene in Terenure, Dublin; Inset: Cathal Sweeney in his rugby days

A Deputy State Pathologist has told a murder trial jury that a former Dublin rugby club captain died from blunt force trauma to his head and face with profuse haemorrhage.

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Gary Walsh (32) with an address at Ravensdale Park, Kimmage, Dublin 15 has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Cathal Sweeney at a house in Terenure on February 8 2014.

Mr Walsh, however pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Mr Sweeney at the Central Criminal Court last week but this plea was not accepted by the State.

Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis today told prosecution counsel Mr Patrick McCarthy SC that he carried out  a post mortem on February 9 2014, the day after the death of Mr Sweeney.

Dr Curtis said the information he was provided with at the time included the deceased being 62 years of age, separated, living alone and taking Warfarin.

He then told the court Mr Sweeney was unemployed, was of well built stature and had been a "heavy drinker" for the past several years.

"The deceased was in a state of cardiac arrest when the paramedics arrived and they administered doses of adrenaline and electric shock. Facial trauma was noted along with lacerations to the left and right side of his forehead. He could not be revived and was formally pronounced dead at 18.32 on Saturday February 8 2014," said Dr Curtis.

The court heard that his conclusions at post-mortem was that this "elderly man had sustained severe blunt force trauma to his head and face as well as extensive bruising to his scalp, face and mouth."

"In addition there were lacerations to his forehead and upper face. Internally he had sustained fractures of his nasal bones and left cheek bone. The deeper tissues of his scalp was extensively bruised. The skull was intact though a small collection of blood on both sides of his hemispheres," said Dr Curtis.

When asked by the barrister what the effect of his facial injuries were, Dr Curtis replied that they would have compromised his upper airway and his ability to bleed and the inhalation of fluid blood.

The court heard Mr Sweeney had also suffered a cardiac arrest and this would have been a major contribution to the brain swelling.

The jury also heard there was additional injuries on his body by way of bruising and some abrasions involving his trunk and all four limbs.

While the majority of his bruises were fresh, Dr Curtis told the court the deceased was on Warfarin therapy to thin the blood and stop him getting blood clots in his legs.

This however the court heard would have rendered him more liable to bleeding and bruising.

"The presence of heart disease may have rendered him less likely to survive head and facial trauma. There was also high levels of alcohol detected in his blood," said the doctor.

The court heard the cause of death was blunt force trauma to his head and face with profuse hemorrhage on a background of the enlargement of the heart and Warfarin therapy.

"What type of blunt force trauma?" asked Mr McCarthy.

"The principle injuries were most probably caused by heavy punches and he bled profusely from the injuries," replied Dr Curtis.

Under cross examination defence counsel Mr Brendan Grehan SC put it to the witness that when Cathal Sweeney arrived at the hospital he was still bleeding from the face and if he had any comments to make concerning this?

"I think those injuries would cause bleeding in any person but they would bleed extensively with Warfarin," replied the doctor.

Mr Grehan then asked Dr Curtis in terms of actual injuries he found to his face and head, if the situation was that the deceased had been punched repeatedly at least 6/7 times and the person who did it said there was a lot of blood immediately, in terms of the injuries found to face, could all these be accounted for as repeated punches to the face?

"Yes multiple blows," replied Dr Curtis.

Finally the defence counsel asked the witness if he found anything in Mr Sweeney's medical records that might have been a red flag to find out if he was on the appropriate amount of Warfarin at the time?

"I came across a letter that he hadn't attended for his medical checks which was described as a final warning," said Dr Curtis.

Closing speeches in the trial will commence this afternoon.

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