Sunday 26 January 2020

Man accused of impeding homicide investigation tells trial 'sooner or later' the truth would have surfaced

The Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin
The Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin

Alison O'Riordan

A man charged with impeding a homicide investigation has told his trial that he felt “uneasy” telling lies in his garda interviews and “sooner or later” the truth would have surfaced.

The 55-year-old was continuing to give evidence in his defence today on the fifth day of his Central Criminal Court trial.

Aivars Sondors is charged with three counts of assisting an offender on September 9 or 10 2013 by impeding the apprehension or prosecution of Marius Gaizutis, knowing or believing him to have unlawfully killed Audrius Butkus (44).

The particulars include moving the body from a house on Marsh Road in Drogheda and placing it in the sea at Mornington Beach; cleaning up the scene at Marsh Road; and disposing of carpet, clothing, a nail brush, bin bag, bottles and tins from the scene at Burke House, Mathew’s Lane, Drogheda.

Mr Sondors of Sycamore Close, Termon Abbey in Drogheda, but originally from Latvia, has admitted the three allegations against him, but has pleaded not guilty to all three counts. His barrister has indicated that the issue for the jury to decide would be whether there had been duress.

The jury has previously heard that Gaizutis was convicted of the murder of Mr Butkus on May 1, 2015.

Mr Sondors took the stand at his trial yesterday and told his defence counsel Mr Colman Fitzgerald SC that he agreed to help move the victim’s body as he was “terrified” of the killer and thought if he refused he would be the “next victim”.

During cross examination by the prosecution today, Mr Patrick Gageby SC asked Mr Sondors whether he had plans to tell gardai the truth if they had not come looking for him. “You can’t hide anything, sooner or later it would have surfaced,” he replied.

Speaking to the prosecution, the accused agreed that while he may not be a “brave person”, he was a truthful person saying: “Yes, now I'm telling the truth.” The accused said he felt “uneasy” telling lies to

Detective Sergeant Liam Archbold and wanted to tell him the truth.

The court previously heard that Mr Sonders denied any involvement in his garda interviews and could not explain how his blood-stained fingerprint was found on a handrail at the killing scene. Det Sgt Archbold testified previously that he thought Mr Sondors seemed “remorseful” after the interviews were completed so he told him to seek legal advice and return to Drogheda Garda Station the next day if he wished.

Mr Sondors returned the following day and told gardaí in his subsequent interview that he helped Gaizutis put the body in the boot of his car, dump it at the beach, clean up the basement and dispose of materials at Burke House on Mathew’s Lane.

Mr Gageby asked Mr Sondors why did he choose to go to Mornington beach to dump Mr Butkus’s body. “He told me to go to the seaside to get rid of the body,” he replied.

The accused agreed with counsel that he had to pull the body from the boot of his car at Mornington beach and said: “I grabbed his hand and it fell out.”

The court heard that when Mr Sondors returned to Marsh Road after dumping the victim’s body into the water, Gaizutis was waiting for him and ordered him to clean up the scene. “I took off my dirty t-shirt and washed the floor with it,” he said.

Earlier, Detective Sergeant Fergal O'Toole, from Drogheda Garda Station, said he found a brown-handled axe in the bathroom of the house at Marsh Road on September 12, 2013. Chief State Pathologist, Professor Marie Cassidy, previously gave evidence in the trial that the victim died from head injuries consistent with being struck by the blunt end of the hand axe.

Dr Stephen Clifford, from Forensic Science Ireland, said he was tasked to take swabs from blood-stained items found at Marsh Road including an axe, a handrail, a carpet and the boot of a red Suzuki car. The DNA’s profiles generated from these items matched Mr Butkus’s profile, he said.

The prosecution and defence are expected to give their closing speeches on Monday in front of Mr Justice Paul Coffey and a jury of eight men and four women.

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