Monday 23 October 2017

Homeless man found guilty of manslaughter for stabbing passer-by in self-defence

Natasha Reid

A HOMELESS Dubliner who stabbed a 23-year-old to death last year has been found guilty of manslaughter by reason of self-defence.

The Central Criminal Court heard that John Murdoch was stabbed in the heart at Cushlawn Way - Cushlawn Dale in Tallaght, after a recovering heroin addict produced a knife during a dispute.

Thomas Kinsella (34), of Orchid House on James’s Street in the capital, had pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr Murdoch on August 27, 2011.

He insisted that he was defending himself when he stabbed the deceased. He said a group that included Mr Murdoch threw bricks and bottles at him and his two friends, a man and woman.

The trial heard that the incident began with Mr Murdoch and his two male friends calling Mr Kinsella’s group ‘junkies’ and ‘scumbags’ as they walked past them. The three recovering drug addicts ignored them and kept walking but were followed.

Kinsella said he was carrying a homemade knife as he had received threats and been attacked with a knife in Tallaght in the past. He claimed that he had produced the weapon to scare Mr Murdoch and his two friends.

He said this worked on the other two males, but that Mr Murdoch had run at him and that he thought the deceased had something in his hand. He said the knife went into Mr Murdoch as they struggled and fell.

However, one of the youths with Mr Murdoch that night testified that Kinsella had run at the three of them with the blade. He said that he and his other friend had jumped back and that Kinsella “got a hold of John and stabbed him”.

The jurors had been given three potential verdicts: murder, manslaughter or acquittal, depending on whether they decided he acted in self-defence and, if so, the type of force used.

Mr Justice Barry White told the jury that if Mr Kinsella believed he was using reasonable force, but that it was excessive in the jury’s view, then the correct verdict would be manslaughter.

The seven women and five men reached a unanimous verdict of not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter after deliberating for just under three hours today.

Mr Murdoch’s heavily pregnant sister, Amanda Murdoch, then delivered an emotional victim impact statement from the witness box.

“To have John taken away from us so tragically took a bit of our close-knit family away,” she said through tears.

Members of the Murdoch family became upset and some had to leave as she spoke about the pain they had all gone through since his death.

She said that her brother, the second youngest of a large family, was a lovable, caring brother and friend. She said he was a very popular young man, who had his whole life ahead of him.

“My best memory of him was his laugh, his smile and the love he had for all of us,” she said.

“It was very hard to say goodbye to him,” she continued, saying that it was heart-breaking to watch her parents say goodbye to their son.

She said that he would never know her first-born child, who was due in the New Year, and that he or she would never know him.

“He loved his nieces and nephews so much,” she explained.

She said that weeks before he died, he had spoken of his wish to settle down and have a family of his own, something he would now never do.

She described the night her brother died as the worst night of her life.

“I knew our lives would never be the same,” she said, adding that her family and family occasions would also never be the same.

“Our family chain is broken but we know he’ll always be with us,” she concluded.

Mr Justice White directed the preparation of a probation report on Kinsella and remanded him in custody for sentencing on January 28.

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