Saturday 24 March 2018

Accused pleads not guilty to murder of man whose body was found on beach in Co Louth

Gardai at the scene in Mornington Beach in Co Louth, in September 2013
Gardai at the scene in Mornington Beach in Co Louth, in September 2013

Alison O’Riordan

A judge has told a jury in a murder trial that when the trial started last week they had two defendants but she has decided to now continue the case with only one defendant.

Ms Justice Margaret Heneghan is presiding over a case where a 52-year-old man has admitted killing another man, whose body was found on a Louth beach in 2013.

The man, who is charged with the 44-year-old’s murder, is one of two men who went on trial last Wednesday, charged in connection with the death.

Marius Gaizutis of Marsh Road, Drogheda, Co Louth is charged with murdering Audrius Butkus at that address on the 9th or 10th of September, 2013.

He pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to manslaughter when arraigned before the Central Criminal Court last Monday morning. This was not acceptable to the State and a jury was sworn in to try him and his co-accused.

Aivers Sonders (53) of Sycamore Close, Termon Abbey in Drogheda was arraigned on separate charges last week.

He's charged with three counts of assisting an offender on the same dates by impeding Mr Gaizutis’s apprehension or prosecution.

The particulars include moving the body from Marsh Road 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 Sonders pleaded not guilty to all three counts.

However this afternoon, Ms Justice Margaret Heneghan addressed the jury of four women and eight men and said that when this trial started prosecution counsel Patrick Gageby SC told them they had two defendants.

"I've now made a determination that we will continue the trial with Mr Gaizutis and you will no longer be concerned with Mr Sonders," said the judge.

The jury previously heard that Mr Gaizutis met Mr Butkus at the back of Tesco on September 9, 2013, and invited him back to his house on Marsh Road where he had a bottle of rum.

The court heard that in a statement to gardai, Mr Gaizutis said that Mr Butkus went to the toilet at some stage that night and the accused smelt smoke coming from the toilet and when he approached he saw Mr Butkus asleep on the toilet with a cigarette in his hand.

The accused told gardai that a struggle ensued where Mr Gaizutis punched Mr Butkus in the jaw and then Mr Butkus punched Mr Gaizutis in the head with a bottle.

The jury were shown photos today of two scars on the accused's hand which included injury to the back of Mr Gaizutis's left hand and also to the palm of his left hand.

Mr Gageby then called Detective Garda Shane Curran who is attached to the Detective Unit in Navan Garda Station, who showed original CCTV footage to the jury from September 9 and 10 2013 of Marsh Road.

Det Gda Curran agreed with Mr Gageby that the footage showed Mr Gaizutis and Mr Butkus walking along Mayoralty Street in Drogheda.

The trial continues at 11am tomorrow with the remainder of the footage.

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