Saturday 1 October 2016

Man found dead on beach 'struck up to nine times on the head with axe,' court told

Published 30/05/2016 | 18:13

Audruis Butkus
Audruis Butkus

The State Pathologist has told a trial jury how a man found on a Louth beach in 2013 died from blunt force trauma to the head which "would appear to be caused by the blunt end of an axe."

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The Central Criminal Court has heard that 44-year-old Audrius Butkus was ‘battered to death’ in a house in Louth before his body was dumped at a nearby beach.

Aivars Sondors (54) is charged with three counts of assisting an offender on September 9th or 10th 2013 by impeding the apprehension or prosecution of Marius Gaizutis, knowing or believing him to have unlawfully killed Mr Butkus.

The particulars include moving the body from a house on Marsh Road in Drogheda and placing it in the sea at Mornington Beach; cleaning up the scene at Marsh Road; and disposing of carpet, clothing, a nail brush, bin bag, bottles and tins from the scene at the Burke House, Mathew’s Lane, Drogheda.

Mr Sondors of Sycamore Close, Termon Abbey in Drogheda has admitted the three allegations against him, but has pleaded not guilty to all three counts. His barrister has indicated that the issue for the jury to decide would be whether there had been duress.

Today State Pathologist Dr Marie Cassidy told prosecution counsel Mr Patrick Gageby SC that she performed a post mortem on the deceased in a hospital in Drogheda on September 10, 2013.

Dr Cassidy said she was told that Mr Butkus's body was discovered face down in the sand on Mornington Beach and his wet clothing suggested he had been in contact with water.

The court heard that the upper half of his body was naked and he was wearing jeans and underpants which were down around his ankles.

Dr Cassidy told the court there were obvious injuries to Mr Butkus's head which appeared to be caused by a rectangular object.

"He got multiple blows to the left, top and base of his head. He was struck by an object with a rectangular projecting surface. He could have received nine blows to his head," he said.

The post-mortem confirmed he had been a victim of a violent assault and his death was due to head injuries sustained.

There was four lacerations to the back of his scalp and his brain was swollen.

Dr Cassidy said that Mr Butkus was most likely face down on the ground when the majority of the blows were struck and his death would have been immediate.

"Although he was found on the beach there are no features to suggest he drowned or evidence that he had been in the water for a long time.

He was considerably intoxicated by alcohol at the time of his death and such high levels of alcohol would have affected his actions and reactions," she said.

The court heard that there was a lot of rectangular wounds and that most of his injuries would appear to be caused by the blunt end of an axe.

Dr Cassidy said that most of the injuries were "clustered to the back of his head" and "a blow from an object like this would most likely knock someone down."

Earlier in the afternoon Detective Sergeant Fergal O'Toole from Drogheda Garda Station was called to give evidence.

He told the court that an axe with a brown handle was found in the basement of the house at Marsh Road on September 12 2013.

Detective Garda Brian Barry who is attached to the Ballistics Section of the Garda Technical Bureau was also called to give evidence and he told the court he took around 55 swabs from the house at Marsh Road.

"It is my opinion that a serious assault took place in the basement area based on the blood-staining on the stairs down to the ground floor. I'm satisfied an injured person was moved out the door into the Suzuki Swift car and a clean up took place," he said.

The court also heard that blood-staining in the hollow of the head of an axe, blood taken from the boot of a car and blood on a carpet found at Mathew's Lane in Drogheda matched the DNA profile of Mr Butkus.

The prosecution also called Detective Sergeant Nicholas Kelly to give evidence.

He told the court that he called to an apartment on Francis Street in Drogheda on September 13 as he had information that Mr Sonders might be implicated in a murder.

Mr Sonders was then arrested on suspicion of the murder of Mr Butkus and he was brought to Drogheda Garda Station.

The trial continues tomorrow morning before Ms Justice Carmel Stewart.

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