Friday 20 September 2019

Murder accused told gardaí 'I just wanted to protect my family' after stabbing, jury hears

Defendant claimed victim had earlier attacked him with an axe

The defendant’s mother Veronica Sweeney. Photo: Liam Burke/Press 22
The defendant’s mother Veronica Sweeney. Photo: Liam Burke/Press 22

David Raleigh

A Kerry man told gardaí he stabbed another man to protect himself and his family, claiming the victim had earlier attacked him with an axe, a murder trial has heard.

Blake Sweeney (21), of Fertha Drive, Cahersiveen, Co Kerry, who is charged with murdering Robert Elston (33), told gardaí he "didn't mean to do it", his trial at the Central Criminal Court, sitting in Limerick, heard.

Mr Sweeney has pleaded not guilty to a single charge of murdering Mr Elston, from Lisselton, Co Kerry, at Fertha Drive on May 23, 2018.

The court heard the accused had been briefly romantically involved with the victim's ex-partner, after the victim and the woman had split up.

The court also heard from a witness that, on the night in question, the victim told him he was going to set fire to the accused's house.

Witness Sean McSherry said the victim had been drinking alcohol and smoking cannabis with him and a woman in his apartment.

Witness Sean McSherry was drinking with Robert Elston before he was killed. Photo: Liam Burke/Press 22
Witness Sean McSherry was drinking with Robert Elston before he was killed. Photo: Liam Burke/Press 22

He said the victim left for the accused's home, taking an axe belonging to Mr McSherry, and a bag of rubbish with him.

"Bobby said 'f**k this', and he was going to go and set fire to Blake's house. He put rubbish in a black bag, he got a hatchet," Mr McSherry said.

"When he was going to go down to Blake's house to burn it, he had an axe in his hand. I think he took it with him," he later added.

He said that after the victim returned, the accused then called to his apartment, and had a knife by his side.

Mr McSherry said he saw the accused's hands "go in and out twice" of the victim's left side. He said he did not see anything in the victim's hands.

Mark Nicholas SC, defending, said his client told gardaí that his reaction was to stab the victim after the victim ran towards him and hit him on his left finger with the hatchet in Mr McSherry's home.

Mr McSherry said he had confiscated the axe prior to the fatal confrontation.

He said he did not see the victim with the axe when the victim was stabbed.

Mr Nicholas said the accused told gardaí: "I didn't mean to do it. I didn't want to do it. I just wanted to protect my family."

Members of the accused's family gave evidence that on the night, they were awoken to "banging" and "thumping" on their front door.

They said they saw the victim standing outside the house with an axe in his hand.

A car parked at the house, belonging to the accused's brother, Aaron Sweeney, was on fire, they said.

The accused's mother Veronica Sweeney said that when she opened the door, she saw the victim with "a big axe in his hand".

"He was shouting at me: 'Get him f**king out. I'm going to kill him'," she said.

"I was terrified," she said.

The court heard Ms Sweeney told gardaí she saw the accused "going through the kitchen drawers and take a kitchen knife".

She broke down in court as she recalled the accused leaving the house, telling her: "I have to protect ye."

Ms Sweeney said when the accused returned to their home, he told her: "I'm after stabbing him."

"He was crying. I hugged him. He was in shock. He said to me, 'I'm sorry. I'm sorry, mam'."

The trial continues.

Irish Independent

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