Monday 21 January 2019

Barrister for man accused of murdering nephew's friend suggests death was an accident that can't be legislated for

Tadhg Butler in a photo from 2000
Tadhg Butler in a photo from 2000

Natasha Reid

The barrister for a Kilkenny man, charged with murdering his nephew’s friend, has suggested that what happened was an accident and a tragic set of circumstances that could never be legislated for.

Michael Bowman SC was giving his closing speech to the jury in the Central Criminal Court trial of Tadhg Butler, who is charged with murdering Michael O’Dwyer on January 10 2014. The 25-year-old died in hospital, hours after receiving a stab wound to his chest at a party in Mr Butler’s Co Waterford home.

Mr Butler (37) with an address at Seafield in Tramore, has pleaded not guilty. Previously known as Thomas O’Grady, the father of five told his trial that he accidentally stabbed him while taking a knife from his nephew to prevent him self-harming.

That nephew, Anthony (Tony) O’Grady, told gardai that Mr Butler had walked over and stabbed his friend with a butcher’s knife as they sat and chatted. However, when called to the witness box, he said he couldn't remember anything, partly due to his personality disorders and five daily medications.

Mr Bowman told the jury today that a large part of this case would be based upon what it made of Tony O’Grady and what he said.

“He’s a man with particular and specific difficulties, which I suggest have contaminated his view of what happened,” he said.

He said Mr Butler accepted that he had caused the death of Michael O’Dwyer. However, he explained that the allegation of murder is based upon a specific state of mind when a blow is struck.

“That intent is to kill or cause serious harm. Nothing less will justify a verdict of murder,” he said.

However, he said that there were two alternative verdicts available to the jury. He said that a verdict of not guilty should be returned if the jury was satisfied that the killing was ‘a tragic accident’, that Mr O’Dwyer was in a small, confined space and was stabbed as a consequence of the force needed to pull the knife away from Tony O’Grady.

“If you think the actions were reckless,” he began. “And that he should have been paying attention to what was going on around him, and aware that in a tight space such as that Michael O’Dwyer could have been injured, the verdict is manslaughter, but not one of murder.”

He reminded the jury that Tony O’Grady had agreed that the accused had previously disarmed him to prevent him self-harming with sharp implements.

“I suggest what happened in there on the 9th was a tragic set of circumstances you could never legislate for. An uncle, who has previously come and disarmed him, does it in a split second, in the blink of an eye and tragically a life was lost,” he said. “I say the defendant is not guilty and should be acquitted.”

The prosecutor earlier told the jury that it had ample evidence to find him guilty. Denis Vaughan Buckley read out Tony O’Grady’s statement, which was admitted into evidence in the trial.

“I was upset about my brother, Mark,” he told gardai. “Michael sat down beside me on the stairs. We were chatting away. I can’t remember about what,” he continued.

“As we were talking, Thomas walked out of the kitchen, he walked up to us and at the last second, I saw him lift a butcher knife from beside his leg and stab Michael into the chest. Michael collapsed forward straight away,” he said. “Thomas walked back to the sitting room and started drinking. Thomas never said a word.”

Mr Vaughan Buckley noted that the accused had not given the gardai his account of accidentally stabbing the deceased during his interview.

He also questioned him on this in the witness box, with the accused saying that his nephew would have been questioned and ‘this would have brought an awful lot of hassle to my sister’s doorstep’.

“I submit that there’s more than ample evidence on which you can safely come to the verdict of guilty of murder,” concluded the barrister.

Mr Justice Paul Butler has now begun his charge to the jury, which is expected to begin deliberating tomorrow.

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