A 35-year-old man stabbed the manager of a pub where he had worked 19 times “without warning” because he was having “psychotic delusions” and believed his former boss was responsible for the murder of Michaela McAreavey, his trial at the Central Criminal Court has heard.
The court heard the accused, Neil O’Dowd, was increasingly paranoid in the weeks leading up to the incident and believed Covid-19 was a conspiracy. He also thought the pub manager was responsible for the unsolved murder of Michaela McAreavey in Mauritius and had brought a Mauritian chef who worked in the pub to Ireland to cover up the crime.
Mr O’Dowd, of Tuscany Park, Baldoyle, is charged with the attempted murder of Paul Smith at The Elphin Pub on the Baldoyle Road in Sutton on January 28th, 2021. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
The jury heard Mr Smith, the manager of the pub, was stabbed repeatedly with three different knives, had glasses smashed over his head and was beaten with a mop handle.
The court heard a total of 19 stab wounds were inflicted on Mr Smith and following the incident he suffered a pseudoaneurysm in the artery of his heart that required surgery and a stent.
Mr O’Dowd is also charged with assault causing harm and the production of knives during a dispute inside and outside the Elphin Pub on the same date.
Opening the case for the prosecution on Tuesday, Fiona Murphy SC told the jury that this trial differs slightly to other trials that might arise because the facts of the case are agreed.
“The defence has indicated that they don’t take issue with any of the facts,” she said.
Counsel said the issue for the jury to decide is whether the accused had the requisite intent. She told the jury they would hear from two doctors asked to carry out reports for the defence and prosecution respectively, who will say that they are satisfied that Mr O’Dowd was suffering from a mental disorder at the time.
In his evidence to the court, Det Gda Basil Grimes from Raheny Garda station told Ms Murphy that Paul Smith had been working in the Elphin Bar in Baldoyle on January 28th, 2021 when Neil O’Dowd entered the premises shortly after 1pm. Mr O’Dowd had previously worked there as a barman and it would not be unusual for him to call in.
The detective garda said Mr O’Dowd engaged in conversation with Paul Smith before, “without warning”, he stabbed Mr Smith a number of times with a large knife. Another employee attempted to intervene and the knife was knocked from the accused’s hands. Mr O’Dowd then proceeded to smash glasses over Mr Smith’s head, Det Gda Grimes said.
The disturbance moved out to the car park but Mr O’Dowd walked back into the pub where he picked up two steak knives. When he returned to the car park, he had a knife in each hand and proceeded to stab Mr Smith repeatedly. Mr Smith attempted to protect himself with his hands but Mr O’Dowd continued to stab him until the knives broke, Det Gda Grimes said.
The accused then continued to assault Paul Smith with the handle of a brush and a mop that were in the car park. Gardaí arrived on the scene a short time later and pepper spray was used to subdue Mr O’Dowd, who was subsequently arrested, the detective garda said.
Det Gda Grimes said that in his interview with gardaí, Paul Smith said he had been standing in the middle of the lounge when Neil O’Dowd entered. He said it wouldn’t be unusual for the accused to call in while he was out walking but he began asking Mr Smith questions like why [Mr Smith] had gone to Mauritius on honeymoon. The detective garda said Mr Smith had not gone to Mauritius on his honeymoon.
Mr Smith told gardaí he then went to attend to a customer and as he went to the cash desk to get a notebook he noticed a large knife in Mr O’Dowd’s hand. Mr Smith told gardaí that when he asked Mr O’Dowd what he was doing the accused said: “You killed that girl in Mauritius” before swinging the knife and stabbing him repeatedly.
Ms Murphy told the jury Mr Smith was attended to by Dr Michael Quirke, a consultant in emergency medicine at Beaumont Hospital who outlined the injuries sustained. In a statement read to the jury by Ms Murphy, the consultant said Mr Smith had sustained a total of 19 stab wounds to various parts of his body including his shoulders, chest and hands. A CAT scan showed evidence of a pseudoaneurysm of his left artery which required a stent. Mr Smith also suffered a deep wound to his left hand which required plastic surgery.
Det Gda Grimes said the accused was taken to Clontarf Garda station after his arrest. He was interviewed and indicated that he heard voices in his head and told gardaí he was bipolar and was on medication. He said he remembered having a row with Paul Smith but didn’t know what it was about and said what happened was “all a blur”.
Det Gda Grimes said in his interview, Mr Smith said he had feelings of empathy but also anger towards the accused, who he said he would view as a good friend. They would often have a drink after work and he would drop the accused home.
During interviews Mr O’Dowd said he believed in conspiracies, talked about jumping in front of a bus, told gardaí he was paranoid and said he thought his TV was bugged, the detective garda said.
Under cross examination from Bernard Condon SC, for the defence, Det Gda Grimes agreed that in his statement to gardaí, Mr Smith spoke “incredibly sensitively” about Mr O’Dowd and had described him as “a good aul mate”.
The trial continues on Wednesday in front of Mr Justice Paul McDermott and the jury.