Saturday 21 September 2019

Love triangle death accused was defending himself from 'sudden attack'

Argument: Claire McGrath was in the bedroom with Mr McKeever when her partner returned. Picture: Collins
Argument: Claire McGrath was in the bedroom with Mr McKeever when her partner returned. Picture: Collins

Eoin Reynolds

A man accused of murdering his love rival was hit with a "sudden and ferocious attack" and was entitled to defend himself, a barrister told a court yesterday.

Michael O'Higgins SC called on the jury at the Central Criminal Court to acquit Keith Connorton (40) in his closing speech for the defence.

Mr Connorton has pleaded not guilty to murdering 32-year-old Graham McKeever at the accused's home at Deerpark Avenue, Tallaght, on February 18, 2017.

Mr O'Higgins described how Keith Connorton arrived home at around 4am on February 17 cold, wet and tired. He put bread in the toaster and put on the kettle.

His only intention at that point was to have a snack and go to bed, Mr O'Higgins said.

However, Claire McGrath, Mr Connorton's live-in partner, was in the bedroom with Mr McKeever.

Ms McGrath gave evidence that she and Mr McKeever had been preparing to have sex when they heard Mr Connorton.

She went to the kitchen and told him to get out and that they were finished but he realised there was someone there and an argument started.

In a statement, Ms McGrath said Mr Connorton took a knife from the knife block and threatened her.

But in her evidence in court, she said that he was cutting cannabis with a knife when she walked in.

Mr O'Higgins said neither of these accounts is reliable but what is true is Mr McKeever "barrelled in", attacked his client and left him with a fractured eye socket.

Mr O'Higgins asked the jury to consider what the accused was supposed to do given the "suddenness and ferocity" of the attack in his own home at 4 o'clock in the morning from a man he does not know.

"Was he supposed to stand there and do nothing?" he asked.

The accused man told gardaí he was left dazed by the attack, "blacked out" and when he came to Mr McKeever was getting a knife from the kitchen. "He came at me," he said.

The prosecution contended there is no evidence that Mr McKeever had a knife but Mr O'Higgins pointed to a cut on Mr Connorton's hand.

Counsel told the jury they cannot rely on statements by Ms McGrath, who on her own admission is not a reliable witness. He described her as a vulnerable and damaged person who is also likeable and articulate.

He asked the jury if she lied about some things how could they be sure she did not lie in February 2017.

Brendan Grehan SC, prosecuting, said the accused's version of events, in which Mr McKeever had the knife but the accused managed to "turn it around" was a "pack of lies".

He said the jury can rely on Ms McGrath's original statements to gardaí, which she accepted were mostly true.

"It is only the bits that don't suit Keith, the partner she loves, that she changes."

Mr Justice Tony Hunt told the jury they must consider the defence of provocation.

If Mr Connorton was provoked to a point where he had a sudden and total loss of self-control, then he would be guilty of manslaughter and not murder. The jury will begin their deliberations today.

Irish Independent

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