One of seven people charged with murdering Dale Creighton, who was beaten to death in Dublin almost three years ago, said the deceased was already "black and blue" and bleeding from his eyes before he punched him.
The jury in the Central Criminal Court trial on Friday heard evidence of garda interviews conducted with Graham Palmer, who initially denied assaulting Mr Creighton (20).
He was attacked on New Year's 2014 on a footbridge over the Tallaght bypass between St Dominic's Road and Greenhills Road and died in hospital the following day.
A woman and six men, who are in their 20s and from Tallaght, have all pleaded not guilty to murder.
They are Aisling Burke (23) and David Burke (28), of Beechpark, Collinstown, Co Westmeath; Graham Palmer (26) of Park Avenue, Portarlington, Co Laois; Ross Callery (23) of Gortlum Cottages, Brittas, Co Dublin; James Reid (26) of Glen Aoibhinn, Gorey, Co Wexford; Jason Beresford (23) of Coill Diarmuida, Ard a' Laoi, Castledermot, Co Kildare; and Gerard Stevens (27) of Grosvenor Square, Rathmines, Dublin.
Each of the accused initially pleaded not guilty to violent disorder at the footbridge. However, Mr Beresford later pleaded guilty to the violent disorder charge.
Garda Alan Young told the court he interviewed Mr Palmer a number of times on New Year's Day 2014.
“I didn’t put a finger on that young fella,” Mr Palmer told him.
Mr Palmer said he was walking home in the early hours when he heard a commotion. “That young fella was black and blue long before I got to the bridge,” he said. “That young one (Aisling Burke) was hysterical on the bridge. I walked up to see if she was ok.”
‘Black and blue’
Mr Palmer said Mr Creighton was “in a ball” and that “his face was black and blue” with blood was coming from his eyes.
He said he was told someone had robbed Ms Burke of her bag and phone and someone was asking the deceased where the phone was.
He said someone had given the deceased “either a boot or a punch” while Mr Palmer was picking him up off the ground.
The interviewing gardaí told him the chances were that Mr Creighton would not survive.
“Well, I hope to God for him and for his family that he does,” he responded.
Mr Palmer said he was 100 per cent sure he had not touched Mr Creighton. He was later shown CCTV footage of the assault and identified himself crouching over Mr Creighton.
“There were people trying to kick him and punch him and I tried to prevent it,” he said.
Mr Palmer accepted he had “slapped” Mr Creighton in the stomach but said this was to “get his attention”. He agreed that he had hit him again and that he appeared to get something on his hand, and was asked if this was blood.
It was put to him that he had left Mr Creighton to die when gardaí arrived and Mr Palmer said “everybody else ran so I just did”.
He said he felt “not good, ashamed” after seeeing the CCTV footage.
Mr Palmer then agreed that he had also punched him in the face. He was asked if he had anything to say about his actions, and said “I deeply regret them”.
The court previously heard Mr Palmer and Ms Burke were holding hands when they were arrested nearby shortly after gardaí arrived.
He was asked if they were a couple and he said no. He said he had put his arm around her because she was “shaking like a leaf” and denied it was an effort to look like couple who had nothing to do with what had happened.
The trial continues.