Sunday 25 February 2018

Victim died from head injuries consistent with being struck by the blunt end of a hand axe, court hears

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

Alison O'Riordan

The trial of a man charged with impeding a homicide investigation has heard that the victim died from head injuries consistent with being struck by the blunt end of a hand axe.

Chief State Pathologist, Professor Marie Cassidy, today gave evidence in the Central Criminal Court trial of Aivars Sondors.

Mr Sondors (55) is 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 Audrius Butkus (44).

The particulars include moving the body from a house on Marsh Road in Drogheda and placing 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, has admitted the three allegations against him, but has pleaded not guilty to all three counts. His barrister has indicated that the issue for the jury of eight men and four women to decide would be whether there had been duress.

The jury has previously heard that Mr Gaizutis was convicted of the murder of Mr Butkus on May 1, 2015.

Dr Cassidy told the court that she carried out a post-mortem examination on Mr Butkus’s body on September 10, which had been discovered face down in the sand on Mornington beach with obvious Injuries to his head.

The witness testified that the upper part of the victim's body was naked and he was wearing jeans and underpants which were down around his ankles. She said his clothing was wet, dirty and sandy.

Dr Cassidy said Mr Butkus had multiple injuries to his face, the left hand-side of his head and the top of his skull which were consistent with being struck by a rectangular object. She said he could have received up to nine blows to his head.

An internal examination showed there was extensive damage to the left side of his skull and his brain was swollen.

In addition to this there were rectangular and triangular wounds on his shoulder area, she said.

Dr Cassidy said death would not have been immediate but he could have been rendered unconscious by the first blow.

There were drag marks on the back of the victim's body which gave the appearance that he had been dragged over something rough, she said.

Mr Butkus had an enlarged liver which indicated chronic alcohol use and he was considerably intoxicated at the time of his death, she said.

There was no evidence of any defensive type injuries nor any suggestion that he had drowned.

In conclusion, Dr Cassidy said that Mr Butkus’s death was due to blunt force trauma to the head which caused brain injury and inhalation of blood.

The witness was shown a hand axe and she agreed with the prosecution that Mr Butkus's injuries could have been caused by the blunt end of this axe.

Under cross examination by Colman Fitzgerald SC, defending, Dr Cassidy agreed that Mr Butkus was the victim of a “ferocious attack” and was in no position to defend himself.

The trial continues before Mr Justice Paul Coffey.

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