Sunday 18 August 2019

Dublin man found not guilty of murdering his neighbour whose body was found in a wardrobe

Stock Picture
Stock Picture
Barbara Staunton leaving court. Photo: Courtpix

Anne Sharkey and Aoife Nic Ardghail

A Dublin man has been found not guilty of murdering his neighbour whose body was found in a wardrobe wrapped in a duvet and plastic bags days after his death.

However, a Central Criminal Court jury today found Anthony Locke (38) guilty of impeding the apprehension of a person who he knew or believed to be guilty of murder.

Locke, of Ramillies Road in Ballyfermot, had pleaded not guilty to the murder of Mr Christopher Jackson (53) at his apartment on Prussia Street, between September 6th and 7th, 2012.

The jury of six women and six men took six hours and 47 minutes to come to a majority verdict of 10 to two that Mr Locke was not guilty of murder but guilty of impeding apprehension of a person who he knew or believed to be guilty of murder.

It was day 11 of the trial.

Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy thanked the jury members for their careful deliberation on the trial and excused them from further civic duty for 10 years.

Earlier in the trial, Mr Justice McCarthy told the jury that if it found Mr Locke not (NOT) guilty of murder, then it was open to deliberate on an alternative charge that the accused impeded apprehension of a person whom he knew or believed to be guilty of murder.

Bernard Locke pleaded guilty to the murder of Mr Jackson and was sentenced to life imprisonment in February 2014.

Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy warned the jury members that they must find Mr Locke unanimously not guilty first, before thinking about the alternative verdict.

On day 2 of the trial, Mr Jackson's partner told the jury that she heard Anthony Locke say he had cut off the deceased's penis.

Barbara Staunton, who admitted she had been smoking heroin that night, said Locke told her he had put the penis into Mr Jackson's pocket.

She said he asked her: “What are you doing with someone with such a little penis?”

She described seeing her partner fall back into the flat moments earlier with a knife in his heart after answering the door to Anthony and Bernard Locke.

She said Bernard Locke brought her partner into the kitchen and then emerged, telling Anthony Locke to “finish him off.”

She told Mr Conor Devally SC, prosecuting, that one of the men said: "Remember the Scissor Sisters? We can be the Scissor Brothers."

In cross examination, Ms Staunton agreed with Mr Padraig Dwyer SC, defending, that she initially said she'd seen Locke with her partner's penis in his hand.

When asked her reason for saying this, she replied: “I thought I did (see it) for a moment, but then I remembered I didn't.”

Ms Staunton confirmed she had consumed heroin, cannabis, alcohol and possibly Valium on the evening.

The witness agreed with Mr Dwyer that she told gardai during one interview that she'd seen Anthony Locke with a pen knife and in another interview that he'd carried up to three steak knives.

When Mr Dywer suggested she had a false memory of steak knives, Ms Staunton replied: “In my recollection there was steak knives.”

She denied that she wanted the body to be left undiscovered and further refuted that she had been “well up for” Bernard Locke's idea of them being a couple.

The Deputy State Pathologist, Dr Michael Curtis, said he found 70 stab wounds on the deceased's body during post mortem examination.

He said Mr Jackson died from “multiple stab wounds”.

He told Mr Devally that the deceased man's genitals were “intact” and that his injuries suggested that more than one weapon had been used.

He said one large stab wound on Mr Jackson's chest had cut an artery and punctured his right lung.

Dr Curtis agreed with Mr Dwyer that the knives shown to him in court were not serrated and that there was no evidence to suggest such a blade had been used.

He further agreed that the large chest wound could have caused Mr Jackson's death, which could probably have occurred in minutes.

After presenting himself at a garda station, Locke told gardai in interview that he had not (NOT) stabbed Christopher Jackson and did not have any weapon.

Detective Garda Kevin Moran told Mr Devally that Locke said his brother would have killed him too if he'd tried to stop him stabbing Mr Jackson.

Detective Sergeant Denis Ellard told the court that Locke denied “interfering” or looking at the deceased's penis.

He said Locke described how the body had felt a “tonne weight” when moving it, saying: “I nearly snapped my back”.

He said Locke told gardai he'd heard screaming from the deceased's flat the previous Thursday and had run downstairs where Bernard Locke informed him he had stabbed Mr Jackson.

Det Sgt Ellard said Locke told him that he had been forced to wrap the body after the killing.

“I can still see his (Mr Jackson's) eyes looking at me. It's wrecking my head”, Locke said in interview.

When asked why he didn't alert gardai, Locke repeated: “My head was all over the place”.

In his final garda interview, Locke told gardai: “For the record, I had nothing to do with the death”.

Det Sgt Ellard agreed with Mr Dwyer that that Locke hadn't exercised his right to remain silent and had given details that would have implicated him in an offence of concealing a body.

Mr Justice McCarthy remanded Mr Locke in custody until January 18th for sentencing.

Ms Staunton said she had been too terrified to tell anyone what had happened, as Bernard Locke had insinuated her son would be “got”.

She said she was told to “act normal” when her sister and a group of friends called around for drinks the evening after the killing.

Ms Staunton said Anthony Locke remained upstairs while the group was in the back yard and that he made repeated throat slitting gestures when she looked up at his window.

In his garda interview, Locke denied he had cut his finger stabbing Mr Jackson and added that his brother had inflicted the injury.

Det gda Moran told Mr Devally that Locke said his brother beat him and gave him tablets to calm him after the killing.

Det Sgt Ellard said Locke told him that Bernard Locke, whom he described as a three times All Ireland kickboxing champion, ordered him to clean up, hit him “ a box” and threatened to “kill me stone dead”.

The detective sergeant agreed that Locke had described a black handled knife which fitted with the investigation and that Ms Staunton had not identified such an implement.

Another witness, Deirdre Holton, said she saw Locke the morning after the killing moving furniture from the deceased's flat into the back yard.

"He said he was on a mad cleaning buzz", Ms Holton told the jury.

Ms Holton told Mr Devally that Ms Staunton was "quiet, not her usual chatty self" at the drinks gathering in the back yard on Friday night.

The witness said Ms Staunton's behaviour was “very, very strange” and that she didn't “resist” the affections of Bernard Locke.

Ms Holton, who was friends with the deceased and Ms Staunton, described how Bernard Locke had been taunting Anthony and their cousin, Avril McMahon.

She described Anthony Locke and Ms McMahon, as “very subdued” during the taunting.

She agreed with Mr Dwyer that she had considered Anthony Locke a “nice guy”, but found Bernard Locke aggressive to him and to her because of their sexualities.

Detective Sergeant Kevin Daly told Mr Devally that a taxi driver alerted gardai after receiving calls and texts from Bernard Locke about transferring a body.

He described seeing a package that was shaped like a body in the wardrobe and preserved the flat as a crime scene.

Det Sgt Daly agreed with Mr Dwyer that nothing about Ms Staunton's interaction with him before the body was discovered had caused him concern.

He said she didn't seem frightened or distressed and had given him permission to look in the back yard when he and colleagues arrived at the flats the first occasion.

Ms McMahon, told Mr Devally that she had been staying with her cousins, Anthony and Bernard Locke, that week.

She said the night of the incident she heard the two men leave the flat as she was going to bed.

She said saw Anthony Locke once when she woke during the night, but he told her to go back to sleep.

The next morning she said he told her he'd been “just buzzing around all night”.

Ms McMahon described “no change” in the men the next day as she socialised with them and Ms Staunton.

This witness told Mr Devally that she met Anthony Locke at a derelict house by the Phoenix Park after she heard Bernard Lock had been arrested and asked him what happened.

“Anthony didn't say what happened, he just said they done it,” Ms McMahon said.

Ms McMahon told Mr Dwyer that Ms Staunton had been “laughing and joking, nothing wrong with her”.

In his closing speech, Mr Devally, explained to the jury that "common design" means all parties who engage in a criminal offence are guilty of that offence.

Referring to the evidence of Mr Jackson's partner, Barbara Staunton, Mr Devally submitted that Locke participated in the attack by restraining her.

He asked the jury to consider if Locke had “cleaned up because his bullyish, taunting, unpleasant, violent brother told him to” or because he had been most likely to know where the buckets were.

Mr Devally suggested that there had been a “division of labour” between the brothers in the killing and cleaning up.

Mr Dwyer submitted in his closing speech that the prosecution was relying on the words of Ms Staunton, whom he described as being inconsistent and telling lies.

Mr Dwyer submitted that his client had no motive for the killing as he had gotten on with Mr Jackson.

Counsel suggested that Ms Staunton's initial evidence to the jury that she had seen her partner's penis in Mr Locke's hand, showed “her capacity of getting images in her head and projecting it as true”.

He submitted that the jury should approach Ms Staunton's evidence “with fear”.

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