Boy (17) sentenced to life for murdering Cameron Blair
Family of student (20) say it ‘will not bring our beloved Cam back’ but may bring comfort
Cameron Blair (20) died after being wounded in the neck by a knife outside a house party in Cork on January 16th. Photograph: Denis Boyle
A teenage boy who murdered 20-year-old college student Cameron Blair by plunging a knife into his neck outside a house party in Cork city has received a life sentence that will be reviewed in 2032.
The teenager, now aged 17, will be detained at Oberstown Children Detention Campus until he turns 18 next month when he will be moved to an adult prison.
Passing sentence at the Central Criminal Court on Monday, Mr Justice Paul McDermott said “the deliberate recourse to knives by young men must be deterred and the public must be protected”.
He said Cameron’s life was taken in an act of extreme violence which was clearly deliberate and unanticipated by him. He described the killing of Cameron as “shocking” and “awful” and pointed out that the defendant knew that the student was “not a threat” before he “viciously murdered” him.
Referring to Cameron, the judge emphasised that he was a decent and hard-working young man that was held in high regard. He had also demonstrated friendliness and decency in his dealings with others on the night, he said.
The boy, who cannot be named because he is a minor, pleaded guilty last month to murdering Cameron Blair on Bandon Road in Co Cork on January 16th, 2020.
Cameron’s parents Kathy and Noel Blair and younger brother Alan were supported in the courtroom by several other extended family members.
Mr Justice McDermott addressed the Blair family a number of times, saying on one occasion that the defendant’s release from prison in the future may be of little comfort to them for the taking of Cameron’s life and his guilty plea may appear to be inadequate for such a dreadful crime. However, it reflected the underlying sentencing laws and principles, he explained.
Cameron was a native of Ballinascarthy in west Cork and a second-year chemical engineering student at Cork Institute of Technology (CIT). He died at Cork University Hospital (CUH) on January 16th after being stabbed in the neck while attending a student party at a house in Cork city.
Speaking outside the court, Cameron Blair’s uncle Aidan Donnelly read out a statement on behalf of the family:
“As you can imagine the murder of our beloved son Cameron and everything that has followed since has been a very harrowing time for us and all our family. Today has been equally distressing but we welcome the conclusion of this aspect of the investigation into Cameron’s cowardly murder.
“The life sentence handed down today will not bring our beloved Cam back but will hopefully give some comfort if not now then over time. It is just over three months since our son was murdered. Having pleaded guilty we were told that due to the fact that the accused was a juvenile he had to be sentenced prior to his 18th birthday resulting it appears to us in the case being expedited through the courts. This allowed little time for us to grieve as a family. We believe that this is something that needs to be examined and ask that appropriate authorities look into this.” He thanked gardaí, neighbours and friends for their help and kindness”
“Cameron, we miss you terribly, you will never be forgotten, you will always be remembered. In your short 20 years, you did a lot, we did a lot and we thank you for the joy and love you brought into our lives. Until we meet again, rest easy in peace Cam.”
At a sentence hearing earlier this month, the court heard that Cameron had told his friend: “Don’t worry lads, I don’t want to be fighting” moments after the defendant stabbed him with the knife into his neck. The student, who was acting as a “peacemaker” outside the house party in Cork city, was not aware that he had been stabbed.
The court was told that Cameron had “extended the hand of friendship” to his murderer earlier in the night when he suggested the teenager and his two friends be allowed come into the party. Cameron had told them they were “sound”, the hearing was told.
Cameron had also acted as a “good Samaritan” on the night when he brought a drunk homeless man into the house because he was concerned about him.
In a letter of apology to the Blair family, the 17-year-old boy wrote that he was “deeply remorseful” for what he had done saying: “Cameron was nothing but nice to me on the night and did nothing wrong to me. It was never ever my intention for any of this to happen.”
The court heard that the defendant and his two friends had developed a paranoia as to whether somebody else had a knife at the party. The 17-year-old had “tapped” the kitchen knife on the back of his leg a number of times before he lunged forward in a downward motion and stabbed the student in the neck.
Before delivering the sentence on Monday, Mr Justice McDermott noted that the teenager had the intention to kill or cause serious injury to Cameron and there was no evidence of self-defence, which raised his culpability to a much higher level. “The dreadful reality is that the life of Cameron was taken in an act of extreme violence,” he said.
Mr Justice McDermott said the teenager was fast approaching his 18th birthday and pointed out that if he had taken a trial date it would not have concluded before this. He was not a very young child when he committed the murder and was in a later stage of development, he continued. Furthermore, there was nothing to suggest the teenager suffered from a mental disorder and he understood the nature and consequences of what he did when he stabbed Cameron, he said.
Referring to the victim impact statements given by the Blair family, the judge said they were given with enormous dignity and restraint. He said that Cameron’s participation in life transcended this awful crime and he was a decent and hard-working young man who was held in high regard. “It is the loss of his valuable life and his social, sporting and working life that is central to this,” he added.
Furthermore, Mr Justice McDermott said Cameron had demonstrated friendliness and decency in his dealings with others on the night. “His family are bereft in this appalling murder and their suffering will be life-long and nothing I do today will relieve that,” he explained. The defendant had extinguished Cameron’s life by viciously murdering him and what happened on the night was simply awful, he said.
“Why if the accused and his friends felt unwelcome at the house party did they not simply leave instead of arming themselves with weapons?” asked the judge.
Mr Justice McDermott observed that Cameron had tried to calm down the situation and prevent it from escalating. He said it was clear from the evidence that the teenager and his two friends had behaved in a violent and intimidating manner and they could not be pacified.
The defendant was waving a knife about on the night and laughing when he knew Cameron was only a short distance away from him, said the judge. The delivery of the fatal blow was “vicious, deliberate and cowardly” and had been unanticipated by the deceased.
The aggravating factors in the case included that the teenager was a guest at the party and for no identifiable reason he had armed himself with a kitchen knife, he said. “He and his friends introduced knives into the situation and this was intended to intimidate and frighten those at the door of the house. He knew Cameron was unarmed, he had invited him into the party and was not a threat to him,” he said.
Another aggravating factor was the fact that the accused had ran away from the scene without getting any assistance for the student and later disposed of the knife and a pair of gloves. He also lied to gardaí initially by trying to suggest that he and Cameron had exchanged punches, said the judge.
The court heard that among the mitigating factors were the teenager’s guilty plea which saved the Blair family the enormous burden of sitting through a trial, his age and the sorrow he had expressed.
The judge said a probation report had been made available to the court in which the defendant said that he had produced the knife as he thought it would scare the deceased.
Mr Justice McDermott then sentenced the teenager to detention for life with a review in November 2032 but said he must serve a minimum of 13 years. “The aggravating features require that this review only occur after a substantial period in custody,” he said.
The judge also emphasised that “the deliberate recourse to knives by young men must be deterred and the public must be protected”. Furthermore, he said the teenager’s release must be “very carefully considered and supervised”.
The defendant’s earliest release date is January 24th, 2033 and this will depend on how he responds in custody and the progress he makes in terms of his alcohol issues and his aggression, said the judge. He directed the preparation of detailed reports during his period of custody with the first report to be submitted in October this year and then one every three years up to the review in 2032.
In summary, the judge said it was inevitable that the teenager would be transferred to an adult prison within a relatively short time of being sentenced. The sentence was backdated to January 24th, 2020.