Saturday 14 December 2019

Man killed housemate because he 'failed to bring home ribs from butcher' during drinking session

Central Criminal Court
Central Criminal Court

Natasha Reid

A 38-year-old man has been cleared of murdering but convicted of killing his housemate, who had failed to bring home ribs from the butcher.

The Central Criminal Court trial heard that both men had spent the day drinking with another man in their house in Laois.

The killer sent his 26-year-old housemate out to buy cider and ribs that afternoon, but he arrived home without the ribs. His housemate became ‘offended’ when he would not go back out for them and stabbed him with a kitchen knife.

Alexander Karpovs, who was originally from Latvia, died of a single stab wound to the heart at his home on Spa Street in Portarlington on February 15th, 2014.

Deivydas Zigelis, a Lithuanian, had pleaded not guilty to his murder, but guilty to his manslaughter.

The court heard that both men worked as bin collectors during the week, but spent their weekends drinking alcohol at home.

The jurors saw photographs of their filthy house, the floors strewn with debris, broken crockery, drink cans and empty cigarette boxes. A garda testified that the only food he could see in the kitchen was a bag of sugar.

A friend of the two testified that he went to their house that morning because he couldn’t find any cider in his own home. They spent the day drinking; he and the deceased drank vodka and the accused drank cider.

He testified that he continued watching television when he saw the accused run towards the deceased with a knife because there were often conflicts in the house. He said he later saw blood, and the accused asked him where it was coming from.

The court saw CCTV footage of the deceased making a number of trips to an off licence that day. Mr Karpovs was also seen entering a butcher’s shop that afternoon but leaving without purchasing anything.

The accused told gardai that his housemate had returned from the shops with cider, but without ribs.

“I took the cider and told him go back to the butcher and get the ribs,” he said, explaining that his housemate had sat on the couch and refused to go back out.

“I got offended. I took a knife and hit him,” he continued. “I took the knife out of his body and put it beside the sink.”

The prosecutor remarked that Mr Karpovs hadn’t done what he was told. Shane Costello SC also told the jurors not to let the men’s ‘pathetic living circumstances’ affect their deliberations.

He warned them that intoxication was not a defence.

“A drunken intention is still an intention,” he said in his closing speech.

“He intended to kill or cause serious injury, even if only for a fraction of a second, even if drunk,” he concluded, asking for a guilty verdict.

The accused man’s barrister drew comparisons between the men sitting around drinking vodka and watching Russian films and the Irish wage packet on the bar of an English pub on a Friday night, a sing song in the corner.

He noted that his client had told gardai that it was not his intention to hurt his housemate and was puzzled as to how it happened.

“The possibility he had no idea what he had done remains very active,” said Conor Devally SC in his closing speech.

“Intoxication is not being promoted as a defence,” he said, “Just that intent is absent.”

He read from a previous direction of a judge, who said that intoxication was material to the question of intent; it could prevent the accused having the intent.

The six women and six men of the jury deliberated for almost six hours over two days before returning with a unanimous verdict.

The foreman had filled in ‘Not Guilty’ on the issue paper and was asked to clarify the verdict. He said that the verdict was, in fact, not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter. He was asked to write this in full on the issue paper.

Mr Justice Paul Butler remanded Zigelis in custody until July 26th, when a date will be set for sentencing.

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