Irishman jailed for knife murder in Tenerife

Wed, Dec 12, 2012, 00:00

A judge yesterday jailed Irishman Keith Burke for 15 years and three months for the murder of a ferry worker in Tenerife.

Burke (21), from Dublin, stabbed Abraham Baez (24) repeatedly in a knife attack after coming off worse in a street punch-up.

Judge Fernando Paredes criticised Burke for failing to show remorse over the killing. However, he jailed him for close to the minimum prison term for murder because of his age and the “confusion” surrounding the fight.

Burke’s then-girlfriend, Sara Stuart, was given a nine-month suspended prison sentence for wounding the victim’s girlfriend, Laura Negrin, during the same brawl. The judge took into account that Stuart (30), also from Dublin, suffered injuries in her struggle with Ms Negrin.

Passing sentence on Burke, the judge said in a written ruling: “The accused showed only the slightest traces of repentance for this brutal and unjustified action.”

He described the attack as “premeditated”, and said the victim was left “absolutely defenceless” when Burke surprised him by stabbing him with a knife he had hidden in the palm of his hand.

However the judge added: “Given the nature of the crime, the speed and confusion that characterised this dispute in the early hours, as well as the young age of the accused which would influence the immaturity of his reactions at that time, a sentence of 15 years and three months in prison is proportionate and adequate.”

Burke was also ordered to pay his victim’s parents, Maria Teresa and Juan Antonio, €200,000 in compensation.

Burke’s defence lawyer, Avelino Miguez, said his client would appeal against the conviction.

Burke was found guilty of murder by a jury on November 30th following a week-long trial at a court in Tenerife’s capital, Santa Cruz.

The jury also found Stuart guilty of wounding but cleared her of the more serious accusation of wounding Ms Negrin with a rock. Stuart was ordered to pay Ms Negrin €600 in compensation.

The fight broke out at 6am in the resort of Playa de las Americas on April 30th, 2010, as both couples returned from separate nights out.

The brawl started when Ms Negrin accidentally banged a car door on to Stuart outside the Hotel Tropical Playa. Burke, who was just 18 at the time, and Mr Baez had a fist fight, which the Spaniard won.

Burke then stormed off to his nearby holiday apartment, grabbed a kitchen knife with a 9cm blade and returned to the scene.

The jury found Burke had deliberately hidden the blade in the palm of his hand to give him the element of surprise over the larger man.

He stabbed him in the neck, face and shoulder, severing his carotid artery.

Mr Baez stumbled 45m into the reception of the hotel, where he collapsed and died from massive blood loss.

The Irish couple, who had arrived in Tenerife three weeks earlier, were both arrested at the scene.