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Blood on shoe 'linked teen to deadly assault'

BLOOD found on the shoe of a 19-year-old man on trial for murder matched that of a man who died after being subjected to a 'beyond terrifying' assault, the Central Criminal Court has heard.

The jury in the trial of Michael Cruise was told that blood found on the laces of his Nike runners belonged to Darren McKeown (29), who died from a severe head injury days after being attacked at a Christmas party in Drogheda.

Eye-witnesses have told the court of the assault, during which Mr McKeown was kicked in the head and beaten on a green area and in the driveway of a house in the Rowan Heights estate, on Christmas night and St Stephen's morning, 2007.

Cruise, of Donore Avenue, Ballsgrove in Drogheda, has pleaded not guilty to the murder. A 21-year-old woman is also on trial for the murder and denies the charge. Louise Wall, of Cranmore, Clogherhead, and Cruise have also both denied a second count of violent disorder.

The prosecution argues that the case is one of alleged joint enterprise. Seven people admitted to gardai to assaulting Darren McKeown that night.

The jury has been told that the attack began after Mr McKeown was seen hitting a woman he had been arguing with, during a Christmas Day house party. After that, the woman's teenage son and his friends all planned to give Mr McKeown 'a beating'.

They began kicking him in the kitchen of the house, then followed him outside to the green where they kicked and stamped on his head as he lay on the ground. When he struggled to get up, one of the youths pushed him and he fell, hitting his head off the concrete.

He was taken back into the driveway, where the assault continued. He was again kicked in the head and ribs, before the emergency services were called and found him bleeding and unconscious, the court heard.

Mr McKeown's cause of death was a severe head injury. He also had brain damage, extensive bruising to the scalp and a broken jaw.

Following her arrest, Wall told gardai that she kicked Mr McKeown in the head, and stamped on his head and chest. She also said she hit him twice on the side of the head with a glass ashtray.

Gardai asked why she had participated. She said it was because she had been drinking spirits and was annoyed Mr McKeown had tried to kiss her, and because she had seen him hit the woman.

In his interviews, Cruise admitted to giving Mr McKeown two to three "good kicks" in the head.

The case continues.