Former soldier 'in control' when he stabbed man to death - murder trial hears
A former British Army soldier was in control of his actions when he stabbed a man to death, a barrister has told a jury at a murder trial.
Prosecuting counsel Paul Burns SC on Tuesday gave his closing speech to the jury in the Central Criminal Court trial of Donal Colgan (65), of Killarney Court, Killarney St, Dublin 1. Mr Colgan has pleaded not guilty to the murder of David Sheridan (45), outside Luigi's chip shop on the Capital's North Strand Road on August 17/18, 2014.
Mr Burns said that the accused is asking the jury to believe that he suffered a "total loss of control" after Mr Sheridan provoked him into the stabbing. However, he said nothing the deceased had done should have caused him to lose control.
He said Mr Colgan had left the scene after a fight outside the chip shop, went home and returned nine minutes later and stabbed Mr Sheridan. "The evidence shows he was in control of his mind," said Mr Burns, adding that he had time to cool off on the walk home and back to the chip shop.
Defence counsel Patrick Marrinan SC told the jury that if Mr Colgan had lost control due to the actions of the deceased, they must find him not guilty of murder, but guilty of manslaughter. He also said that if they believed he acted in self-defence, but that the force he used was excessive, they should similarly return a manslaughter verdict.
Mr Burns said Mr Colgan has no case for self-defence. He said the accused had left the area and chose to come back armed with a knife and pursued Mr Sheridan. He added: "When the deceased tries to defend himself he is stabbed to death."
Addressing the claim that Mr Colgan was provoked, Mr Burns said that the accused man may have been in a rage after the fight at the chip shop and that many murders are carried out in anger or for revenge. "But this provides the motive for murder, not the excuse," he added.
Mr Burns continued: "He wanted to come back and he came back and he came back to show he wasn't a man to be messed with."
He said that a defence of provocation would require "total loss of self control, to the point where you are no longer master of your own mind." This, he said, could not be true of a man who made the decision to get a knife, go back to the scene and send a message to the people he had been fighting with earlier. "We mightn't approve of it," he said, "but it is not a total loss of self control."
Mr Marrinan asked the jury to consider why this then 63-year-old, self-described loner and a creature of habit, who gets up at 6am to work at Government buildings and spends his free time at the Sunset House pub, should go for a bag of chips after ten pints of cider and end up killing someone. "It is utterly irrational," he said.
On hearing that, he said, you would immediately wonder what else happened to cause this sudden outbreak.
Going back to the first fight at the chip shop, Mr Marrinan said that the State's witness, Gary Kinlan, had lied when he claimed that he was outside the chip shop with David Sheridan "having a laugh" when Mr Colgan accused them of laughing at him. He said CCTV showed that Mr Kinlan was on his own when Mr Colgan emerged. He said it is the defence's case that Mr Kinlan started the row and punched Mr Colgan several times before Mr Sheridan came out and kicked the accused.
He said Mr Kinlan then knocked Mr Colgan to the ground with a bag of cans or bottles before the older man got away and went home before returning with the knife. When Mr Colgan returned, another witness, who cannot be named because he is underage, said he saw the accused approach with a knife and shouted "run" but Mr Sheridan attacked Mr Colgan with another bag of cans. Then Mr Colgan stabbed Mr Sheridan four times, causing the injuries that led to his death.
He added: "All of a sudden it all went off. In a moment of panic and loss of control he stabbed Mr Sheridan."
Mr Marrinan told the jury that they would have to consider Mr Colgan's background, his life experience and his history of depression and panic attacks when considering if he lost control that night. He said that the defence is not looking for a verdict of not guilty, but one of not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter.
Justice Carmel Stewart will charge the jury of nine men and three women on Wednesday morning.