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‘You’re no son of mine’ – court hears of row on night of father’s death as son pleads guilty to manslaughter but denies murder


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A MAN has pleaded not guilty to the murder of his father in Co Waterford last year.

Stephen Butler appeared before the Central Criminal Court in Waterford this morning.

John Butler died following an altercation in the early hours of Saturday, January 11, last year.

The 48-year-old was found inside the hallway of his house on Brown Street in Portlaw, and attempts to resuscitate him by onlookers were unsuccessful.

His son, Stephen Butler, with an address at Shielbaggan, Ramsgrange, Co Wexford, was charged with his murder.

The 23-year-old, who appeared in court wearing a navy suit, white shirt and patterned tie, told the court today that he was pleading not guilty to the charge of murder, but said he does plead guilty to manslaughter.

Prosecutor Michael Delaney SC told the jury they must decide whether there was "an intent to either kill or cause serious injury" on Stephen Butler's part, adding that any attack does not have to be premeditated.

The incident took place after the two had been out in nearby Carrick-on-Suir playing in a darts tournament. They came back to Portlaw later that night and settled in the Clodagh Bar for drinks around midnight, directly opposite their home at 44 Brown Street.

The two, who witnesses said were often taking "sly digs" at each other, later went home, where the older man locked his son out of the house.

Stephen Butler was seen kicking at the door while John tried to keep him out, and minutes afterwards Stephen Butler was seen "repeatedly punching" his father in the head until he collapsed in the hallway of his home.

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Stephen Butler left the scene and was later found near the River Clodiagh by his mother, Lisa Kelly, who had received a call from her ex-husband John. Ms Kelly travelled from Wexford that night following the phone call and her son eventually returned to the scene after 4am.

He was initially charged with assault causing harm but this was later upgraded to murder.

John Butler suffered multiple lacerations and a dissected blood vessel which caused an injury akin to a stroke, Mr Delaney told the jury.

Tony McGrath, from Beechwood Grove, Portlaw, who came upon the scene, told the court he held John Butler's hand as he lay in the hallway, telling the man, "Come on, John, get up". The older Mr Butler "grunted" but did not respond, he said.

Mr McGrath and a friend found he had no pulse, and tried to resuscitate him with a defibrillator but to no avail. An ambulance later brought him to University Hospital Waterford where he was pronounced dead.

A young woman working in the Clodagh Bar across the road described seeing John Butler's face "covered in blood" following the altercation.

The court heard John Butler was moderately to acutely intoxicated on the night according to tests carried out later, with witnesses saying both men had been consuming alcohol on the night.

The court heard that the Butlers were often "needling and niggling" each other.

In the hours prior to their altercation, during a game of darts, Stephen Butler sought to change the initials indicating his name on the scorecard as 'SK', for his mother's surname instead of his father's.

Shannon O'Donoghue, who was working in her family pub, the Clodagh Bar, on the night of the incident, told gardaí in her statement that Stephen Butler had commented on her "good relationship" with her father in comparison with his with his own father. While in the pub they engaged in "little sly digs" against each other which was typical behaviour for them, she said.

Stephen Butler was paying rent to his father while staying between Brown Street and his mother's home in Wexford, but locals had heard he had been "locked out" of his Portlaw home previously.

Tony McGrath said he had seen Stephen Butler sitting on the street outside the home late at night, having been locked out on at least two prior occasions, while the jury heard numerous remarks describing the interactions between father and son at the house in the minutes leading up to the physical confrontation.

Ms O'Donoghue said Stephen Butler was in a "frantic" state outside the Brown Street home when she was leaving.

He could be heard saying "come out and fight me" while outside the home, Mr Delaney told the jury in his initial outline of elements of the case.

Ms O’Donoghue had told gardaí she heard John Butler telling Stephen "you're no son of mine", while Stephen Butler was also heard saying: "I only want to go to bed.”

The court heard she had texted Tony McGrath while working behind the bar, asking him to stay "until one of the Butlers leave" the pub. She told the court that she "didn't know why" she sent that text.

She said John Butler had said "Good night sexy" to her when he was leaving the pub, which she felt was "definitely a bit out of character" for the man.

The trial continues tomorrow and is expected to last two weeks.

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