A man accused of murder told gardaí that he believed his life was in danger when he grabbed a kitchen knife and stabbed a man “in his own defence”.
Matusz Batiuk (33), formerly of Carrabeg Estate, Swinford, Co Mayo, has pleaded not guilty at the Central Criminal Court to murdering Michael McDonagh (24) on November 16th, 2020.
Opening the prosecution’s case on Monday, Desmond Dockery SC said the court will hear evidence that Mr Batiuk, a native of Poland, had lived for the previous two years at Carrabeg Estate, which was temporary accommodation provided to him by Mayo County Council.
Outlining the facts of the case, Mr Dockery said Mr Batiuk had moved to Ireland from Poland with his mother and brother in 2006 or 2007 and originally settled in Ballina.
He said Mr McDonagh was the youngest of 10 children and that he and his sister were fostered by their uncle and his wife. Mr Dockery said Mr McDonagh left school at 16 years old, was unemployed when he died and was living on and off with his foster sister and friends.
On the day of the incident, Mr Dockery said Mr McDonagh travelled to meet his friend Paul Maughan. At 10pm, Mr McDonagh and Mr Maughan called into a Chinese takeaway before walking the short distance to Carrabeg.
They brought alcohol with them and were invited into Mr Batiuk’s one-bed bungalow. Mr McDonagh was intoxicated at the time and the three men sat in the sittingroom.
Detailing the evidence that will be heard, Mr Dockery said Mr Batiuk made a 112 call to the Emergency Call Answering Service (ECAS) at 10.51pm that night, which was forwarded to gardaí.
The call-taker had difficulty establishing the location of the house with Mr Batiuk. In the first call, Mr Batiuk named Mr Maughan as the man who was messing with him and trying to fight him, the court heard. The caller told him that gardaí would be sent.
The court heard that at 10.57pm, a second call was made by Mr Batiuk, who said he had stabbed a man in his house in his own defence and that the knife he used was still in his hand.
“This time he named Mr McDonagh who he said was bleeding,” counsel said.
Mr Dockery told the jury that the recordings of these calls would be played to them.
“You will hear Paul Maughan in the background as he reacts to what occurred in the second call,” Mr Dockery said.
When gardaí arrived after 11pm they found Mr Batiuk standing behind a table and he had picked up a large knife, the court heard.
“He was instructed to put it back down and did so,” counsel said.
The barrister said that Mr Maughan, who had blood coming from both his thumbs, was intoxicated and in a hysterical state. There will be evidence, Mr Dockery said, of what Mr Batiuk said to gardaí and what was said by Mr Maughan.
Mr McDonagh, who was lying on the floor of the kitchenette, was unresponsive. He had a weak pulse and was bleeding heavily. An ambulance arrived but Mr McDonagh could not be resuscitated.
Counsel said the court would also hear that Mr Batiuk told gardaí in his interviews that the three of them were in the sittingroom when an argument or discussion developed and “that Mr McDonagh had volunteered to hurt Mr Batiuk if Mr Maughan wanted him to do so”.
The accused said Mr McDonagh began walking towards him and was putting his fist into his hand in a threatening way. Mr Batiuk said he retreated to the kitchen and grabbed a knife but Mr McDonagh kept coming towards him. He said he believed his life was in danger and stabbed Mr McDonagh in the stomach.
Mr McDonagh’s death was caused by a single stab wound to a depth of at least 12cm. He also experienced rapid fatal blood loss and was intoxicated. There were no defence related wounds on Mr McDonagh’s body and his blood was on the blade of the knife., counsel said
Mr Dockery said expert evidence from a consultant psychiatrist would be that Mr Batiuk was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2008 and the court would hear evidence about “whether this may have had a bearing on matters”.
The barrister explained that the State’s case would be that this was an unlawful killing which was murder and that Mr McDonagh’s death was not caused accidentally and not in legitimate self-defence.
Mr Dockery said the prosecution maintains that when Mr Batiuk reached for the knife and “plunged” it into Mr McDonagh’s lower abdomen it was done with the intention of murder.
“Intention does not require premeditation, intention can be formed in an instant,” he concluded.
The trial continues tomorrow before Ms Justice Mary Ellen Ring and a jury of nine men and three women.