| 10.1°C Dublin

Jibe about daughter led to fatal fight, court told

ONE of two brothers on trial for the murder of a farmer told gardai he hit the victim with the handle of a shovel after he made a remark about his daughter who has Down Syndrome.

Daniel-Joseph 'DJ' Byrne told Garda Darragh Rigney that a neighbouring farmer, Edward 'Eddie' Dempsey, said: "There's bad breeding there, you can see it in the eyes," before the row between the two erupted in December 2006.

Mr Byrne said he took this to refer to his daughter, who has Down Syndrome, and asked Mr Dempsey if this was what he meant, to which the farmer replied: "Yeah, you can see it in the eyes."

Mr Dempsey (49) had driven to the Byrnes' farm at Hammer Lane to get back his heifer that had strayed. His brother, John Dempsey, and their farm worker Thomas Gorman accompanied him.

Last week, they told the Central Criminal Court that Eddie Dempsey was invited into the yard by the Byrne brothers, but when he walked in, the brothers began beating him with sticks "out of nowhere".

They described how Jason Byrne hit Mr Dempsey across the legs with the handle of a brush and DJ Byrne hit him "full force" across the head.

The Byrnes, aged 39 and 33, and both of Hammer Lane, Borness, Mountmellick, Co Laois, have denied murdering the father of two on October 11, 2007. Mr Dempsey died in hospital on that date -- 10 months after the alleged assault.

Prosecuting lawyers are arguing that he died as a result of injuries sustained in December 2006 and that the Byrnes engaged in a joint enterprise to harm Mr Dempsey. But Gda Rigney, who arrived at the scene after the row, told the court that DJ Byrne said Mr Dempsey was repeatedly told not to come into the farmyard.

Mr Byrne said he was standing in his yard with his brother Jason, when Eddie Dempsey pushed the gate despite being told four times to stay out.


He said Mr Dempsey's brother and their farmhand followed two steps behind him. DJ Byrne then took up the handle of a shovel and Mr Dempsey said: "There's bad breeding there," before pushing him.

DJ Byrne struck Mr Dempsey in the knee with the handle of the shovel, but he said the farmer kept coming forward so he swung at him again.

"I hit him before I knew what happened. . . I hit him on the side of the head with the handle of the shovel, near the ear I think."

Mr Dempsey fell to the ground, he said, but got up again and was walking around before the gardai arrived.

The case continues.

Irish Independent