Wednesday 21 August 2019

'He went pale, his eyes went glassy' - trial told of final moments of stab victim Warren O'Connor

The last picture taken of Warren O'Connor
The last picture taken of Warren O'Connor
Andrew Phelan

Andrew Phelan

Fatally wounded Warren O’Connor shook hands with one of his friends as they told him they loved him before he “went pale” and died, a court heard.

A friend broke down in tears as he gave evidence of Mr O’Connor’s final moments as he lay on a Dublin street after being stabbed following a row over a noisy house party.

Philip Woodcock said they were talking to him and trying to get him to blink but “he didn’t blink, he just died”.

Mr Woodcock (34) was giving evidence in the Central Criminal Court trial of Gary Watson (35), who denies murdering Mr O’Connor (24) at Hole in the Wall Road, Donaghmede on January 16, 2010.

The accused, of Millbrook Avenue, Kilbarrack also denies assault causing harm to Mr Woodcock and producing a knife in the course of a dispute.

Mr Woodcock, an apprentice electrician and former soldier, was living at the time in an apartment at The Beech, Grattan Wood with his then-partner Suzanne Martin and their son.

That night he said he heard loud voices shouting and roaring next door, where his neighbour Louise Kinsella lived.

Later, he heard music, more shouting and “a lot of noise.” 

He went downstairs to remove the fuse and cut the power to the apartment so “hopefully they would leave".

He drove to a garage and Ms Martin called him to say that the party was louder. Mr Woodcock then called and picked up friends Jonathan Gunnery, Richard Grant and Warren O’Connor.

Mr Woodcock knocked on his neighbour’s door, it swung open and there were “three men standing there with big kitchen knives”.

He told the jury he had wanted them to get out of the block because he “wanted a decent night’s sleep, considering I hadn’t had one for two weeks".

Mr Woodcock said Mr O’Connor became aggressive when he saw the knives and he grabbed Mr O’Connor and said “leave it, let’s go".

One of the men, with bushy eyebrows and wearing a Russell Athletic hoodie “stood out” and began talking to Mr O’Connor, which defused the situation and “the knives were gone at that stage".

Mr Woodcock told the others to leave and the man in the Russell Athletic top then “came toward me and hit me with the top of his head onto mine".

Punched

Mr Woodcock said he punched this man, who fell to the ground. Another one of the other group ran back into the apartment and Mr Woodcock thought he was going to get the knives and ran after him.

He grabbed a chain that was around this man’s neck, the man swung around and threw a punch at him and they scuffled, the court heard. As Mr Woodcock and his friends walked out, the man in the Russell Athletic hoodie said “leave it out".

Mr Woodcock said he wanted to get his partner and son out and as they were gathering their things they heard the other group leaving.

His friends helped a man in a wheelchair who was there and Mr Woodcock saw the man in the Russell Athletic jumper standing by a Honda Civic, which the man with the chain was driving.

“They were shouting we were going to get it, they knew where we lived,” Mr Woodcock told the jury.

The others put the Civic in reverse and were “trying to run me over” so he kicked the back of their car. His friends were running at the Civic which was “rallying around basically trying to knock us down".

As they drove out of the car park in a Ford Focus, his friend Richard Grant shouted to the men in the Civic “don’t be acting the b*******, there's kids in the car.”

They drove onto Hole In The Wall Road, where Mr Woodcock said the Civic rammed his car, he lost control of it and both cars cut out.

There was a small potato peeler knife in his car and he gave this to Mr Gunnery and said “if any of them have knives, look out for us”.

Mr Woodcock got out and ran towards the Civic’s driver, who he began hitting. Out of the corner of his eye, Mr Woodcock could see the man in the Russell Athletic jumper running up behind him.

He said he ran towards this man, who had a big black handled kitchen knife in his right hand, about eight inches long and two inches wide.

“It was like a chopping knife that you would get in a kitchen block,” he said.

They ran towards each other and Mr Woodcock threw a punch at the man, who was bringing the knife down, “putting it into my back".

“I think what happened was I caught him with a punch at the same time as he was putting the knife into me and the knife didn’t go fully into me,” he said.

Stabbed

The man lost his momentum and fell to the ground and Mr Woodcock shouted to his friends: “Get back into the car, I’m after getting stabbed.”

His friend Graham Hogan shouted “Warren is after getting knocked out” and they saw Mr O’Connor lying face down on the ground.

Mr Woodcock drove the car to Mr O’Connor and they turned him over.

“He was lying there bleeding from his chest, he was still alive,” Mr Woodcock said. “He put his hand up and he shook Richard’s hand. He went pale, his eyes went glassy. We were all talking to him telling him we loved him. We were trying to make him blink. He didn’t blink, he just died.”

Mr Woodcock became emotional as he gave evidence and members of Mr O’Connor’s family in the public gallery also began to cry.

Mr Justice White asked the jury to retire for 10 minutes.

When his evidence resumed, Mr Woodcock said he saw “what was still left inside him” - a small half-inch or inch long piece of the knife still sticking out of Mr O’Connor’s body.

Two cars drove by with people “beeping and cheering".

Mr Woodcock received stitches for a shoulder injury in Beaumont Hospital, where he also met members of Mr O’Connor’s family. Everyone was distraught, he said.

In cross-examination by Ann Marie Lawlor SC, defending, he accepted he had lied to the gardaí when he told them the knife given to Mr Gunnery was left in the car.

He accepted he told gardaí his intention had been to “beat the b******* out of the fellas in the Civic".

Earlier, James Dwyer SC opened the prosecution's case. He told the jury on the night, the woman next door to Mr Woodcock was celebrating her birthday and met a number of friends including the defendant. They went back to her apartment for a party and Mr Woodcock decided to deal with the noise coming from the neighbouring apartment by taking out the electrical fuse.

He then drove to a nearby garage and got a phone call from his partner to say the noise had resumed.

He decided to call to the apartment with a number of friends, including Mr O’Connor. An altercation took place between Mr Woodcock and his friends including the deceased, and the “other side.”

This took place at the front doors of the apartments and knives were produced, Mr Dwyer continued. After that altercation, both sides appeared to retreat into their respective apartments.

Mr Watson and two men he was with went downstairs to the car park, as did Mr Woodcock and his partner, child and friends.

Mr Watson and the two men got into a black Honda civic while Mr Woodcock and the others got into a Ford Focus.

There were “exchanges” in the car park and both cars exited, the Focus leaving first. The Civic followed, driven by one of the men who was with the accused, Mr Dwyer continued.

Outside the apartment complex, the Civic collided with and rammed the Focus, both cars spun around and Mr Woodcock and the people who had come to assist him got out of the Focus.

His partner and child remained inside the Focus.

Mr Woodcock went to the driver’s side of the Civic, where the driver was and was approached by a man with a knife who stabbed him on the shoulder, Mr Dwyer said.

The prosecution would say this was the defendant.

Mr Woodcock punched him in the chin, knocking him to the ground as he was being stabbed, Mr Dwyer told the jury. He went back to the Focus and saw his friend, Mr O’Connor on the ground.

One of Mr Woodcock’s friends ran to the door of the Civic where the prosecution would say the accused was sitting brandishing a knife.

There was an altercation between them, and Mr Woodcock’s friend subsequently saw the deceased on the ground.

“The deceased had been stabbed in the chest with a knife, breaking the blade in so doing,” Mr Dwyer said.

A witness who lived on the other side of the Hole In The Wall Road said he was looking out his window having heard the sound of the collision between the vehicles.

“He saw the fatal stabbing and heard the assailant say 'get that into you' when he carried out the stabbing,” Mr Dwyer said.

The witness would say he saw the assailant, wearing a hooded top running into Grattan Wood with two men, and the prosecution would say this was Gary Watson.

Gardaí were called, and Mr O’Connor was brought to Beaumont Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Mr Watson, wearing a blue shirt and purple tie sat in court listening to Mr Dwyer as he made his opening speech.

The trial continues before Mr Justice Michael White and a jury of seven men and five women.

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