Friday 23 August 2019

Former soldier who stabbed man outside Dublin chip shop wanted to 'teach people a lesson', court hears

Claims deceased 'struck him with a bag of cans'

Donal Colgan and inset David Sheridan
Donal Colgan and inset David Sheridan

Eoin Reynolds

A former British Army soldier wanted to "teach people a lesson" when he stabbed a man to death outside a chip shop, a barrister told a murder trial today.

The accused man has claimed he was provoked by the deceased who he accused of striking him with a bag of cans. Having heard from the prosecution and defence, the jury of eight women and three men began considering their verdict today and will return tomorrow.

Donal Colgan (66) has pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to the manslaughter of 44-year-old David Sheridan outside Luigi's chip shop on Dublin's North Strand Road on August 17/18, 2014. His plea was not accepted and he is on trial at the Central Criminal Court.

Paul Burns SC for the prosecution said the accused's defence is that he was provoked by the deceased and another man who assaulted him minutes before the fatal altercation.

Mr Burns explained to the jury that for provocation to be used as a defence the accused person must be provoked by something the deceased said or did to the point where he is no longer master of his own mind and he must commit the fatal assault before there is time for passions to cool. Anger, temper, rage, revenge or resentment do not qualify. Also, the accused must not create the situation in which he now says he was provoked.

Mr Burns said the accused had opportunities to walk away, that he created the situation by going home and returning with a large knife and that his actions showed he was in control of his mind when he stabbed the deceased.

He said Mr Colgan was "intent on going back to teach people a lesson" and show them that they can't "treat him like that".

Counsel asked: "What did Mr Sheridan do which is supposed to have caused the loss of control?" He told the jury to watch CCTV footage from inside Luigi's which, he said, shows Mr Colgan acting as the aggressor, pointing his finger into the faces of other customers. He pointed to the evidence of Teresa Marcela, who was working in the chip shop and described the deceased as a "polite man".

Counsel said that Mr Colgan told them that Mr Sheridan struck him with a bag of cans. He added: "You have the benefit of the CCTV and when Mr Sheridan goes outside he doesn't have a bag." Following the first altercation, he said Mr Colgan did not suffer a total loss of control.

He decided to go home, take a knife - choosing a big rather than a small one - and he decided to go back to the chipper with the large knife.

He said this showed anger and resentment, but not a person who was no longer master of his own mind. Mr Burns said it took him seven minutes to walk to his apartment and return to the chip shop. "There was lots of opportunity for rage or passion to cool but he didn't take them."

Addressing the final part of the defence of provocation, Mr Burns said it was clear that Mr Colgan had brought about the situation by returning to the scene "wielding" a large knife.

Counsel further pointed to lies he said the accused man told gardai when arrested.

Mr Colgan at first said he acted in self defence and later denied being in the chip shop and told gardai they had the wrong man. "Did you find him believable?" he asked them, and questioned whether they could believe the accused's claim of provocation knowing that he had lied to gardai.

Garnet Orange SC for the defence told the jury they would have to look at what happened from the accused man's point of view, adding: "You have the difficulty of trying to get into the mind of Donal Colgan at that time and see what his state of mind was."

His client, he said, had been assaulted, humiliated and "slagged off" by a group of youngsters. He had a head full of drink and was on a "battery of medication" for his various illnesses. He asked the jury not to make the same mistake Mr Burns had made by applying his own state of mind to the accused man.

The jury must not, he said, consider what Mr Burns or they themselves would do, but what was going through Mr Colgan's head. Quoting Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, he said you never understand a person "until you climb into his skin and walk around in it".

While Mr Burns would have gone home and privately seethed or called the gardai, "other people don't always do that and it is into that category that Mr Colgan falls."

He pointed out that his client had grown up in the Five Lamps area of North Dublin, had attended the local Christian Brothers school. His marriage had broken up, his health was wrecked and he drank too much.

One witness had described Mr Colgan as "like a bull" during the stabbing and another had supported the accused man's account by saying that he saw David Sheridan attempt to hit Mr Colgan with a can moments before the stabbing. Calling on the jury to look at the CCTV, he said there is a 40 second gap between Mr Sheridan leaving the chip shop and the fatal assault. During this time, he said the jury would have to consider whether David Sheridan moved towards the accused and whether Mr Sheridan had anything in his hand. He further pointed out that a full can of cider was found on the ground at the scene.

Counsel also told the jury that the accused's claim that he was out of control was further supported by deputy state pathologist Dr Michael Curtis who said that Mr Sheridan's injuries were not concentrated in one area. Mr Orange said: "This was a wild attack, not a precision attack."

Justice Tony Hunt told the jury that if all the elements of provocation are "reasonably possible" then they must find the accused guilty of manslaughter and not guilty of murder. The jury will return to continue their deliberations tomorrow.

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