THE man accused of murdering Swiss teenager Manuela Riedo has said that she died by accident shortly after the pair had consensual sex.
Giving evidence at the Central Criminal Court yesterday, Gerald Barry said that he had met the 17-year-old a short time before she died.
Ms Riedo was found dead on wasteland near Lough Atalia in Galway on 8 October, 2007.
Mr Barry said that the pair had been lying on the ground after sex and that Ms Riedo had sat up as she wanted to leave.
However, he wanted her to stay for a while and grabbed her from behind. He said that when he took his arm away shortly afterwards, her head had flopped and slid onto the ground.
"I don't know," he said when asked about how exactly the headlock had happened. "I don't know how she died."
Mr Barry has denied murdering Ms Riedo, but has pleaded guilty to stealing a camera and phone.
Mr Barry said yesterday that he had met with Ms Riedo when she asked him for the time outside a shop in Renmore in Galway on the night she died. He engaged her in conversation and, on hearing that she was going into the city centre to meet friends, walked with her to show her a short cut through the wasteland.
Mr Barry said that he had directed the teenager to continue up a pathway and out onto a walkway at the top of the hill, and that he had sat down to roll a joint but Ms Riedo returned to ask him why he smoked.
"I told her I like the buzz and it relaxes me," he said, adding that he had later told her she was beautiful and the pair had started kissing and fondling, before lying down on their jackets in the grass area.
"I suggested we have sex," he said. "She asked if I had a condom. I said 'yeah'."
He said that they had consensual sex, but that she had made to leave soon afterwards.
"I sat up behind her and grabbed her from behind. I told her not to go, to stay with me for a while longer," he said.
He added that he made a joke but noticed that something was wrong when she never responded. Mr Barry said he "panicked" and dragged Ms Riedo's body into the bushes.
He said that he remembered he had the condom on and threw it in the bushes, and returned to her clothes and threw them away.
He said her phone and camera had fallen out of a bag, and he had taken them but he couldn't say why.
During cross-examination, Isobel Kennedy SC, prosecuting, asked Mr Barry if he could explain the presence of a button from Ms Riedo's coat further up the walkway and the pulled threads which remained on the coat. He said that he couldn't.
"Could it be explained that you met her on that walkway and dragged her in over that wall?" Ms Kennedy said.
"No, that's not what happened," Mr Barry said.
"And continued to drag her down the embankment?"
"That's not what happened."
Mr Barry said he could not explain how some hairs were found "snagged on the bushes" further up the embankment.
He told the court in Dublin that he remembered seeing her face go red after he pulled her down, but could not account for lacerations on the back of her head described in evidence earlier by State Pathologist Prof Marie Cassidy. He said that he did not know how Manuela had got bruises underneath her scalp, and denied that he had caused a post-mortem injury to her groin area.
In intensive cross examination, the 29-year-old from Rasan Glas in Rahoon repeatedly denied that he had used a knife to force Ms Riedo to undress, or that he had attempted to throw away the condom to conceal evidence. The trial continues.