Friday 22 September 2017

Man fatally stabbed after attacking couple with meat cleaver, inquest hears

Victim's mother Sharon Hughes pictured leaving Coroners Court
Victim's mother Sharon Hughes pictured leaving Coroners Court

Gareth Naughton

A man was fatally stabbed after attacking a couple with a meat cleaver, an inquest has heard.

Colm Hughes (20) from Fortlawn Park in Clonsilla, Dublin 15, died as a result of multiple stab wounds sustained when he fought with Lance Geoghegan in the early hours of June 19, 2012.

Dublin Coroner’s Court heard they were strangers. Giving evidence Mr Geoghegan said he is “really sorry” that Mr Hughes is dead, telling the court: “I was just protecting myself and my family".

The inquest heard Mr Hughes, who had been socialising in Dublin city centre, returned home at around 1am but left his house a short time later.

Mr Geoghegan and his girlfriend Amy Lynch had been at their bedroom window at Fortlawn Avenue smoking when the dead man and his girlfriend had earlier passed by on the way to Mr Hughes’s house nearby. 

Mr Hughes had gone back around to Fortlawn Avenue. Ms Lynch said he was screaming: “Amy, what’s your fella’s name? What’s your fella’s name? I am going to blow his head off. You better get him out of the house or I am going to blow the house away”. He then left.

A few minutes later the couple heard a loud bang. Mr Hughes was at their front door demanding Mr Geoghegan come down. Ms Lynch went down to the door to calm him down. However, when she opened it Mr Hughes started pushing passed her shouting: “have you got a problem with me?” at Mr Geoghegan, who was also in the hall. He was “just screaming” at Mr Geoghegan, she told the court. “I don’t know why. They had never met before,” she said.

Mr Hughes then produced a meat cleaver and swung it at her but missed.

Mr Geoghegan said he had armed himself with a knife after the initial threats. When he saw Mr Hughes swing the meat cleaver he tried to force him out of the hall and the two men struggled with each other. They went out of the driveway and onto the street. He said all he could remember was the meat cleaver swinging down. “I was stabbing Colm as he was trying to stab me. It was over in a second or two,” he said.

He eventually disentangled himself from Mr Hughes by wriggling out of his t-shirt, went back to the house and called gardaí. He was injured in the leg during the fight.

Mr Hughes was found collapsed just metres from his own home. He was taken to Connolly Hospital where he was later pronounced dead.  

At autopsy, deputy state pathologist Dr Michael Curtis found four penetrating stab wounds. The cause of death was multiple stab wounds. Coroner Dr Brian Farrell said a toxicology screen found cocaine and a “high blood alcohol” level in Mr Hughes’s blood. 

Detective Inspector Colm Murphy said gardaí believe the two men did not know each other. “We don’t know why this happened,” he said.

A file went to the Director of Public Prosecutions who decided not to prosecute citing section two of the Criminal Law Defence and Dwelling Act, he said. This allows the use of justifiable force by someone who believes a person is trespassing on their property to commit a criminal act.

Coroner Dr Brian Farrell told the jury that a verdict of “justifiable homicide” was not open to them because a coroner’s court cannot blame or exonerate. They returned a narrative verdict outlining the facts.

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