Friday 22 March 2019

Dublin man found not guilty of murdering soldier

Warren O'Connor
Warren O'Connor
Andrew Phelan

Andrew Phelan

A Dublin man has been found not guilty of murdering a former soldier who was fatally stabbed after a row over noise from a house party.

Gary Watson (35) sat and showed no reaction when a jury acquitted him this afternoon of the murder of Warren O’Connor (24), who died from a stab wound to the neck following a confrontation between two groups of people after a party in the north of the city.

Members of Mr O’Connor’s family wept as the unanimous verdict was handed down by the Central Criminal Court  jury after just over four hours of deliberations.

However, Watson, from Millbrook Avenue, Kilbarrack, was found guilty of assault causing harm to another man, Philip Woodcock and producing a knife in the course of the dispute.

The three charges, which were all denied by Watson, arose from an incident at Hole in the Wall Road, Donaghmede, Dublin 13 on January 16, 2010.

Watson was remanded in custody for sentencing next month on the assault and weapon charges.

The jury returned just before 1pm today, following four hours and 11 minutes of deliberations. Watson, wearing a dark grey shirt with a navy tie and grey slacks sat and closed his eyes as the jury members filed into the court.

The forewoman confirmed to the court registrar that unanimous verdicts had been reached on all three counts.

Watson looked at the jury and blinked rapidly but otherwise did not react as the verdicts were read out. Members of Mr O’Connor’s family wept in the public gallery as the verdicts were delivered.

Mr Justice Michael White told the jury it had been a “very difficult and tragic” case. He thanked them and exempted them from further jury service for 15 years.

He offered his sympathies to the “very dignified” family of Mr O’Connor who had sat in court throughout the two-week trial.

There was evidence that Mr O’Connor was a “peacemaker on the night in question” who “tried to resolve an issue, which caused great tragedy.”

He remanded Watson in custody to appear in court again on March 7, for sentence on the remaining charges.

During the trial, the jury heard Mr Woodcock was living with his pregnant partner and young child at The Beech, Grattan Wood, and on the night, a party was taking place next door.

Mr Woodcock removed a fuse and cut power to his neighbour Louise Kinsella’s apartment so the party would end.

He then called four friends - Warren O’Connor, Graham Hogan, Jonathan Gunnery and Richard Grant - and a fight broke out with people from the “other side.”

The court heard kitchen knives were produced during the doorstep fight.

This was followed by an incident outside the complex  in which Mr Woodcock’s Ford Focus was rammed by a Honda Civic carrying the other group of men.

When the occupants of the cars got out, Mr Woodcock said a man ran at him with a knife and stabbed him in the shoulder. He testified that his assailant was wearing a Russell Athletic hoodie top and he had fought with him earlier.

He and his friends then found Mr O’Connor lying on the roadway. They saw he had been stabbed, with the handle of the knife snapped off. The friends described holding Mr O’Connor’s hand, telling him they loved him and trying to keep him awake, but his “eyes went glassy, he went pale” and died.

It was found Mr O’Connor died from a single stab wound to the neck and the knife’s blade was “partially impaled” in the wound.

A witness, Gary Foy gave evidence that he looked out his bedroom window, heard a man wearing a white hoodie say “get that into you” and saw him make a stabbing motion towards another man's chest.

Amy Kinsella testified that she was at the party in her sister's apartment on the night and saw Watson there, wearing a white hoodie with writing on the chest.

The prosecution asserted there was “no other candidate” for the stabbing, while the defence argued that nobody had identified Watson and that the State's case had “huge inconsistencies.”

In his charge to the jury, Mr Justice White had warned them to "be especially cautious" when considering identification evidence heard during the trial.

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