Sunday 25 February 2018

Murder accused spoke to gardaí in his boxer shorts with pet snake in his hands, court hears

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

Natasha Reid

A court has heard that a man on trial for murder spoke to gardaí in his boxer shorts with a pet snake in his hands a short time after the alleged attack.

Thomas O’Connor (29) of Burnaby Court, Greystones is charged with murdering John O’Brien, who was from Burnaby Lawns in Greystones on June 4, 2010.

The father-of-one has pleaded not guilty to murder, but guilty to the 22-year-old’s manslaughter at Farrankelly Road, Delgany, Co Wicklow.

Today the court heard from a witness, who was drinking with the two men on the night.

Cian Wood testified that he was with a friend in Superquinn that night. They noticed John O’Brien and Thomas O’Connor at the car-park when they came out and began chatting to them.

He said that Mr O’Brien was drunk; he couldn’t walk straight, was falling around and mumbling his words.

He said that Mr O’Brien gave them some wine, but that he also threw a punch at his friend, Jake Gorman. He said Mr O'Brien was calling on him to fight him, but that Mr Gorman had said no.

Mr Wood said that Mr O’Brien started drinking again but that he then, out of nowhere, punched Mr Wood in the face for no reason. He said that Mr O’Connor got annoyed with Mr O’Brien and gave Mr Wood some wine to help heal the resulting cut to the inside of his cheek.

He agreed with the defence that he had been frightened by Mr O’Brien and that he had heard the deceased make a threat that they’d be sliced up.

Mr Wood agreed that Mr O’Brien had been staring at him, saying: ‘I don’t like him’ and that he had felt intimidated. He agreed that he hadn’t defended himself because he was afraid of the deceased.

He recalled Thomas O’Connor shouting at the deceased to leave them alone. However, he said that the deceased then ran at Mr O’Connor, who pinned him down. The accused let him back up only when he had calmed down, he said.

He agreed that, but for Thomas O’Connor sitting on Mr O’Brien, it could have escalated.

Fergal Kavanagh SC, defending, asked if was fair to say that Mr O’Brien had been aggressive with and wanted to fight everyone with whom he had come into contact.

“Yes,” he agreed.

The court heard that Mr Gorman and Mr Wood left and walked home to Greystones.

Mr O’Connor’s partner at the time testified that she was wondering what was going on when the accused went outside to the speak to the gardai in his boxer shorts and with his pet snake in his hands.

Ellen Lyons said she had been annoyed with him for being out drinking that night and hadn’t looked at him when he came into their bedroom after midnight.

She said he went downstairs after getting a phone call and she heard her front door open and close.

“Then I looked out and saw a garda car parked outside the neighbour’s house,” she said.

“He had his snake in his hands and he was in his boxer shorts when he went out to the gaurds,” she recalled. “It was strange for him to be outside in his boxer shorts. That to me was something he wouldn’t have done.”

She said she was wondering what was going on.

Earlier, Mr O’Brien’s family said they were worried that he might have been killed in a hit and run when they couldn’t find him the next day. The court heard that a body had been found in the area.

The deceased man’s brother, James O’Brien, testified that he went around to Mr O’Connor’s home the following morning.

“The night before this, he was drinking with him,” he explained. “I said: ‘Where did you leave him or when did you last see him?’”

He said the accused told him he had left him at the top of a lane near Mr O’Brien’s aunt’s house.

He said that his father later asked him the same question.

“Thomas O’Connor said I left him with a person called Woods and Fat Jacob,” he recalled. “When I was listening, the story had changed to what he had told me five minutes previous. I started thinking, would that be my brother up there that’s dead and did this lad do something.”

He said the accused was ‘making up loads of lies’ and that he started to assault Mr O’Connor.

His father, James O’Brien Snr, said that his own father arrived at the house around 7 that morning, asking if all the lads were in, because a young man had been found in Charlesland in a hit and run.

“I thought of Johnny because he lived in Eden Gate with his girlfriend. I tried to ring,” he said.


Two of his other sons told him they had seen their brother drinking with the accused in the Superquinn car park. He sent them to get him.


“Thomas O’Connor’s house is right behind me,” he explained. “We left since that. We moved out because it’s hard, very, very hard.”


He added that his father had died soon afterwards..


The trial will continue on Tuesday before Ms Justice Margaret Heneghan and a jury of six women and six men.

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