Saturday 18 January 2020

Man found not guilty of impeding a homicide investigation

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

Alison O'Riordan

A Central Criminal Court jury has found a 55-year-old man not guilty of impeding a murder investigation after his housemate inflicted “a savage assault” on the victim with an axe.

Aivars Sondors was 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 44-year-old Audrius Butkus.

The particulars included moving the body from a house on Marsh Road in Drogheda and dumping 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, had admitted the three allegations against him, but had pleaded not guilty to all three counts. He claimed he was under duress.

The trial heard that Gaizutis was convicted of the murder of Mr Butkus on May 1, 2015.  Mr Butkus was from Lithuania and came to Ireland in 2007 where he worked in manual labour. He was living in the Drogheda area and was known to be “a bit of a heavy drinker.”

Gardai had moved him on from drinking outside a supermarket around 9pm on September 9, and CCTV captured him with Gaizutis a short time later; they were walking towards Marsh Road. Mr Sondors and his partner lived in the top of the house at Marsh Road and Gaizutis lived in the rest of the house with his partner and five children.

Chief State Pathologist, Professor Marie Cassidy, gave evidence during the trial that the victim died from head injuries consistent with being struck by the blunt end of a hand axe. She said he could have received up to nine blows to his head.

A jury of eight men and four women today found Mr Sondors not guilty by unanimous verdicts on all three counts of impeding the homicide investigation. They had deliberated for two hours and three minutes.

Following today’s verdicts, Mr Justice Paul Coffey thanked the jury for their time and exempted them from jury service for a period of six years.

“May I thank you for the very careful attention you have given to this case, you have been very dedicated,” he said.

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