Sunday 18 August 2019

Man found guilty of manslaughter after row over €100 debt

William Gilsenan
William Gilsenan

Eoin Reynolds

A 24-year-old has been found not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter for killing a drug dealer during an argument over a €100 debt.

William Gilsenan had pleaded not guilty to the murder of Edward Fitzgerald (29) in a car park outside the killer's home at The Green, Larch Hill, Oscar Traynor Road, Santry, Dublin 17.

The jury of seven women and five men took two hours and 35 minutes to come to their unanimous verdict, following a ten day trial at the Central Criminal Court.

Defence counsel Caroline Biggs SC asked that Gilsenan be granted bail on the grounds that he has no previous history of violence and has always answered his bail during the trial process. Justice Paul Butler said there would have to be "extraordinary circumstances" to grant bail following a conviction for manslaughter. He remanded Gilsenan in custody until January 12 when a sentencing hearing will take place.

He also thanked the jury for their hard work, and exempted them from further jury duty for ten years. As Gilsenan was led away by prison guards he blew a kiss towards members of his family who have been with him throughout the ten-day trial.

Members of Mr Fitzgerald's family cried and hugged one another.

Evidence in the trial

The trial heard that Mr Gilsenan owed Mr Fitzgerald €100. Witnesses Dillon Mahady and Charles Brodigan said it was a drug debt but in interviews with gardai, Mr Gilsenan said the debt was for cash, although he had bought drugs off Mr Fitzgerald in the past.

Matters came to a head on October 17, 2014 when Mr Fitzgerald drove to Gilsenan's home and confronted him in the car park, demanding his money. The two men argued, with Gilsenan saying Mr Fitzgerald threatened him and threatened to smash up his house and his mother's house.

That argument ended without any physical confrontation as Mr Gilsenan went to his apartment. Mr Brodigan told the trial that they wanted to smoke a joint but they couldn't find any cigarette papers so they decided to go to a friend nearby. Gilsenan told gardai that he picked up a knife before leaving his apartment, but that he did not intend to use it. He told gardai that his intention was just to show it to Mr Fitzgerald and scare him away if he threatened him again.

When he went outside Mr Fitzgerald was still in his car and started shouting again, making further threats. One neighbour, Judith Commisky, said she overheard the argument and was "petrified" by what she heard. Gilsenan approached the car and argued with Mr Fitzgerald through the open passenger side window but then, according to Gilsenan's interviews with gardai, the deceased struck him in the face. Gilsenan then went to the driver's side door and a scuffle began with Mr Fitzgerald still in the car kicking Gilsenan and Gilsenan holding onto his legs.

After a few seconds of struggle Gilsenan produced the knife and stabbed Mr Fitzgerald twice. One wound went through his leg, the other pierced his heart and caused his death.

Before beginning their deliberations Justice Paul Butler told the jury that they had three possible verdicts open to them. They could find him guilty of murder, not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter, or not guilty.

He said that the not guilty verdict could only apply if they believed Gilsenan was acting in self defence and used only the force necessary to protect himself.

A manslaughter verdict could apply in three scenarios; if he was defending himself but used excessive force; if he did not intend to kill or cause serious injury but intended to cause an injury that is less than serious but more than trivial, or if he was provoked by Mr Fitzgerald to the point where he lost self control.

He told them that to come to a murder verdict they would have to conclude that the the prosecution had proven beyond reasonable doubt that none of those scenarios applied.

Prosecution counsel Orla Crowe SC said members of Mr Fitzgerald's family would like to make a statement to the court prior to sentencing on January 12.

Online Editors

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News