Monday 19 August 2019

'I just held his hand and waited,' friend of former solder tells murder trial

Warren O'Connor
Warren O'Connor
Andrew Phelan

Andrew Phelan

THE 'NOISY' house party at the centre of a row in which a former soldier was stabbed to death had been “quiet and mellow", one of the guests has told a murder trial.

Partygoers were drinking vodka, listening to chart music and dancing before a next door neighbour and his friends came to complain about the noise and a fight broke out, the resident's sister said.

The Central Criminal Court heard that later, in a second confrontation, one of the neighbour's friends, Warren O’Connor (24) was fatally stabbed in the chest with a knife.

Another friend testified that he held Mr O’Connor’s hand as he lay dying, telling him “everything would be alright, but we couldn’t do anything.”

Evidence was continuing today in the trial of Gary Watson (35), who denies murdering Mr O’Connor at Hole in The Wall Road, Donaghmede on January 16, 2010.

The accused, of Millbrook Avenue, Kilbarrack,  has also pleaded not guilty to producing a knife in the course of a dispute and assault causing harm to Philip Woodcock (34) in the incident

The court heard Mr Woodcock was living next door to Louise Kinsella in apartments at The Beech, Grattan Wood. There was a party in Ms Kinsella’s apartment and Mr Woodcock removed the electrical fuse to cut the power, but the party continued.

Mr Woodcock went to the local garage where his partner rang him to tell him not to come home as men from the house party were waiting for him. He returned with his four friends - Graham Hogan, Jonathan Gunnery, Richard Grant and Warren O’Connor.

Giving evidence, Mr Grant told prosecution counsel James Dwyer SC Mr O’Connor asked him to go to Mr Woodcock’s apartment.

Before they had called next door, he did not get the feeling there was going to be a big confrontation, he said.

Mr Grant said he and Mr Woodcock knocked on the apartment where the noise was coming from. Their three friends stood in the hallway.

Mr Grant said people were standing behind the door when it opened and he saw “a couple of knives”.

Following this, Mr Grant ran into Mr Woodcock’s apartment next door and took some knives from the kitchen saying he “panicked” when he saw the others with knives and it was a “nearly like a reflex”.

He thought he gave a knife to Graham Hogan.

By the time he went back “everything was defused” and had settled down and a woman there said “you have knives now.”

He thought she was making the point that he was “hyping everything back up.” He took the knife back off Mr Hogan and gave them to this woman, telling her to take them away, he said.

He fought in the hall with a “stocky, red-haired fella”.

Later Mr Woodcock and his friends went downstairs to the car park.

Mr Grant said a fight began to erupt between the two groups there and a black Honda Civic car with the other group of men was “flying around”.

He said he threw a rat trap and bottles of beer at the Honda Civic and one of the bottles smashed the windscreen.

Mr Grant said their group got into Mr Woodcock’s Ford Focus and they drove out the gate onto Hole in the Wall Road. The Civic rammed the Focus three times, said the witness, adding that their Focus shook and he felt scared.

The Civic then spun around before it ended up parked alongside their car at an angle.

Mr Grant said he got out of the Focus and threw something at the Civic, before running to the driver’s side and fighting the driver, who he thought was “the most dangerous at the time” because the car was a “weapon.”

Mr Woodcock was also in the fight with the driver, he said. Mr Grant got into the Civic and when he got out again, he heard someone say “Warren’s after getting knocked out.”

He saw Mr O’Connor lying on his left side.

“He looked wrong, the way he was lying wasn’t natural,” Mr Grant said.

They did not know Mr O’Connor had been stabbed and Mr Grant pulled his feet out, lying him out on his back.

“I think we saw a knife sticking out from him, I didn’t know what it was at first… it was weird, you couldn’t see much of it,” he said.

He could not see the handle and thought it was snapped.

The knife was in the space between Mr O’Connor’s collarbone and neck. He went to take the blade out in a “reaction” and a woman at the scene told him: “don’t take it out, you could do more damage.”

Mr Grant took his top off, rolled it up and wrapped it around the knife, trying to stop the bleeding, but it “didn’t work.”

“Warren was a big strong guy. We never thought Warren would die,” he said. “We were just trying to keep him awake and stuff, trying to reassure him. I held his hand, telling him everything was going to be alright but we couldn’t do anything. I just held his hand and waited with him.”

He checked Mr O’Connor’s pulse and there did not seem to be any, he said. A woman came and said she was a “first aider.”

Mr Woodcock said he himself had been stabbed and Mr Grant saw blood.

Cross-examined by Ann Marie Lawlor SC, defending, he accepted he told gardai he did not know “who was ramming who” in the collision.

Amy Kinsella, sister of Louise Kinsella from the neighbouring apartment, said they went to a friend Emma Cooney’s house, bought vodka and Boost, an energy drink, at an off-licence and had been at a restaurant before the party.

They were in Ms Cooney’s white Passat, met up with “Jay and Gary” in a Honda Civic and they all returned to Grattan Wood.

She described Gary as being small and muscly with black hair and a white hoodie on. They were listening to chart music, two of the women were dancing and “it was quiet, it wasn’t loud music, it was just mellow like. It was grand.”

Two other men arrived, one in a wheelchair and “next thing the electricity went off.” Someone checked and found out the fuse was gone and the power came back on.

She heard a big commotion in the hallway, looked out and saw “three lads.” She said “your man Philip trying to barge through the door of the apartment” and trying to attack “Jay and Gary.”

The women tried to stop the fight and she saw Jay coming out with a knife but Emma grabbed it off him and put it in the sink, she said.

The witness said Philip punched Gary, and Jay’s eye was “busted open.”

After, she tried to mop up blood from the floor and wall. The “two lads” were shouting about what happened, then left, followed by the women.

She saw the Focus and Civic driving around before leaving the complex. When the men from the Civic returned a few minutes later, they looked “very hyped up and panicking.”

They left in a car with a friend in a wheelchair and the witness left in Emma’s car.

The trial continues before a jury and Mr Justice Michael White.

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