Man (55) on trial for role in ‘violent and bloody’ killing

Charges relate to assisting an offender after body found on Co Meath beach in 2013

Marius Gaizutis was convicted of the murder of Audrius Butkus on May 1st, 2015.

Marius Gaizutis was convicted of the murder of Audrius Butkus on May 1st, 2015.

 

A 55-year-old man has gone on trial charged with impeding the investigation of a homicide, where the deceased died from “a violent and bloody assault” before his body was dumped on a beach.

Aivars Sondors with an address at Sycamore Close, Termon Abbey in Drogheda was arraigned before the Central Criminal Court on Monday morning.

He is charged with three counts of assisting an offender on September 9th or 10th 2013 by impeding the apprehension or prosecution of Marius Gaizutis, knowing or believing him to have unlawfully killed 44-year-old Audrius Butkus.

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 stood and pleaded not guilty to all three counts and a jury of eight men and four women was sworn in to try him.

His barrister, Mr Colman Fitzgerald SC, later said that his client admitted the three allegations against him, but indicated that the issue for the jury to decide would be whether there had been duress.

“The defence case is that when Mr Sondors did those acts, he did so under duress and did so because of the situation he was in,” said Mr Fitzgerald.

Manual labourer

Opening the prosecution case this morning, Mr Patrick Gageby SC told the jury that this case concerned the death of a man called Audrius Butkus. Mr Gageby said the deceased was from one of the Baltic states and he had come to Ireland in 2007 where he worked in manual labour.

Mr Butkus was living in the Drogheda area and was known to be “a bit of a heavy drinker,” said Mr Gageby.

The barrister told the the jury that Mr Butkus was last seen by gardaí­ around 9.15pm on the evening of September 9, 2013.

“He had been drinking with a number of people outside the Tesco supermarket and gardaí­ moved him on,” he said.

Counsel said Mr Butkus wandered off and subsequently “fell into a conversation” with Mr Gaizutis.

The court heard that Mr Gaizutis lived at Marsh Road where he occupied the bottom of the house with his partner and five of his children. Mr Sondors lived at the top of the house with his partner.

Mr Gageby told the jury they will hear that Mr Gaizutis was convicted of the murder of Mr Butkus on May 1, 2015.

“Notwithstanding the efforts of Mr Gaizutis and Mr Sondors to clean up the scene, there was evidence that a violent and bloody assault had occurred in the basement of Marsh Road,” he said.

The court heard that the body of Mr Butkus was discovered by civilians “somewhere above the tideline” on Mornington Beach on September 10th and the matter subsequently came to the attention of the authorities.

The barrister told the jury they will hear evidence that the body of Mr Butkus had been “dragged” in the direction of the sea and there was substantial blunt force trauma to his head.

‘Dumped on the beach’

Mr Gageby said it is the prosecution’s case that after Mr Gaizutis had committed the offence, Mr Sondors dumped the deceased on the beach, assisted in the clean-up of the basement of the house on Marsh Road and took “an amount of material” from Marsh Road and dumped it in a derelict site.

This afternoon, businessman Francis Caffrey testified that he noticed pools of blood on the footpath outside a three-storey house on Marsh Road on the morning of September 10. The witness agreed with Mr Gageby that it looked as if someone had tried to wash away the blood.

By lunchtime Mr Caffrey had heard about a body being found on the beach and the possibility that the man may have died elsewhere. He called gardaí at 1pm that day.

Susan Burke gave evidence that she was walking two dogs along Mornington Beach around 9am on September 10th when she was approached by a man who told her he had seen a body on the beach. Ms Burke agreed with Mr Gageby that the body was lying face down and there was no clothes on the person’s buttocks and back. She alerted the emergency services at 9.10am that day, she said.

Garda Padraic O’Rourke, who is attached to Laytown Garda Station, told the prosecution that he attended Mornington Beach at 9.35am on September 10 as he had been informed that a partially clothed body had been washed up on the beach.

Garda O’Rourke said he was told by ambulance personnel that the male had sustained serious head injuries, there was no sign of life and he was found lying face down with his jeans around his ankles. The witness agreed with counsel that a distant cousin belonging to Mr Butkus later identified him in the mortuary.

The trial continues before Mr Justice Paul Coffey and is due to last seven days.