Sunday 22 September 2019

'He was the great light of our family' - sister of soldier after man found not guilty of murder

Warren O'Connor
Warren O'Connor
Gary Watson. Photo: Przemyslaw Koch

Conor Feehan and Andrew Phelan

THE family of a Dublin man knifed to death after a row over noise at a party vowed to get justice after the man accused of his murder was found not guilty.

Speaking to the Independent.ie after Gary Watson was acquitted yesterday, Warren O’Connor’s sister Carla said: “The person who killed our brother also killed our mother. Two people died because of them.”

Mr O’Connor’s heartbroken family have said they will continue to seek justice for the 24-year-old, who was only trying to act as a peacemaker when he was attacked.

His relatives wept openly in court when the not guilty verdict was read out.

Gary Watson. Photo: Przemyslaw Koch
Gary Watson. Photo: Przemyslaw Koch

Watson (35) was found guilty of assault causing harm to Mr O’Connor’s friend, Philip Woodcock, and producing a knife. He will be sentenced next month.

Carla said her mother, Martina, died on May 23, 2012 of a broken heart, two years after Warren was killed on January 16, 2010.

“Two people died from this attack, not one,” she said.

“Our mother was a different woman after Warren was killed.

“She withdrew into herself. She wouldn’t go out. She sat in and surrounded herself with pictures of Warren.

“Warren’s killer also killed Mam and broke our family up.

“Mam cried herself to sleep after Warren was killed.”

Carla described Warren as the “great light of our family”.

“He was only there that night to help his friend and keep things calm, and he died,” she said.

“It was overwhelming in court. We waited nine years and sat through weeks in the court.

“We don’t feel we have justice for Warren. We want justice and will fight tooth and nail for it.”

Watson, of Millbrook Avenue, Kilbarrack, showed no emotion yesterday when he was found not guilty of fatally stabbing Mr O’Connor in a row over noise at a Dublin house party.

He sat in silence when a jury acquitted him.

Mr O’Connor died from a stab wound to the neck following a confrontation between two groups of people after the party in the north of the city.

The three charges, which were all denied by Watson, arose from an incident at Hole in The Wall Road, Donaghmede.

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

The jury returned just before 1pm yesterday following four hours and 11 minutes of deliberations.

Watson, wearing a dark grey shirt, navy tie and grey trousers, 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.

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.

He said there was evidence that Mr O’Connor was a “peacemaker on the night” 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.

During the trial, the jury heard that Mr Woodcock had been 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 neighbour Louise Kinsella’s apartment so the party would end.

He then called four friends – Mr 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 stabbed him in the shoulder.

IMPALED

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.

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

Witness Gary Foy gave evidence that he looked out of his bedroom window, heard a man wearing a white hoodie say “Get that into you” and make a stabbing motion towards another man’s chest.

The defence argued that no one had identified Watson and the State’s case had “huge inconsistencies”.

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

Herald

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