By Peter Doyle and Paul Neilan
A jury has convicted Feri Anghel of murdering a homeless man - four years and one day after he beat his victim and left him to die in a Dublin park.
Anghel (42), of no fixed abode, had pleaded not guilty to the murder of fellow Romanian national Ioan Artene Bob (49) in Sean Walsh Memorial Park, Tallaght, Dublin, in the early hours of Friday, April 13th, 2018.
But a jury of eight men and three women took only three hours and 44 minutes to return a unanimous verdict of guilty on the murder charge following a trial that opened at Central Criminal Court seven weeks ago.
It was Anghel’s second time to stand trial on the charge, with a jury in August last year failing to reach a verdict after a three-month long trial.
After expressing his gratitude to the jury, Mr Justice Paul Burns excused them duty for the next 10 years.
Mr Justice Burns also remanded Anghel in custody until May 30th for sentencing, pending the preparation of background reports and a victim impact statement.
At the outset of the trial in February, Anghel - who had been working as an office cleaner at the time of his arrest - had answered “100 per cent not guilty” when the registrar put the charge of murder to him.
The jury heard that his victim, Ioan Bob, had worked in construction but by the time of his death was living a “transient” life in Dublin city and had slept in his car for a time.
In the days before he was attacked, Mr Bob had a “stroke of luck” at a Dublin city centre casino, winning around €2,700. The court heard that some members of the Romanian community in Dublin had “picked up on the win” but that Mr Bob had sent a large portion of the money home to his family by the time he was attacked.
The jury heard that a badly beaten Mr Bob was found by a woman out walking her dog in Sean Walsh Memorial Park, Tallaght, in the early hours of Friday, April 13th, 2018.
Witness Marzana Jurzak told the trial that she had asked Mr Bob if he had been attacked and that in response the victim showed her “four fingers”. Ms Jurzak said she formed the impression that Mr Bob was trying to communicate that there were four attackers.
Paramedic Paula Lawless said that Mr Bob had “racoon eyes” through severe bruising when she attended the scene shortly after 8am.
Ms Lawless said that she and a colleague assisted a walking Mr Bob to their ambulance and performed respiratory and cardiac procedures that showed his heart-rate to be normal. The ambulance journey to Tallaght Hospital passed without incident but Mr Bob went into respiratory arrest upon arrival, later suffering cardiac arrest.
Former Deputy State Pathologist Doctor Margot Bolster, who carried out the autopsy on Mr Bob, told the trial that he had suffered a broken nose, extensive bruising to the top of his head, a broken jaw and several broken teeth in the attack. She said that multiple lacerations and bruises to the neck, arms, hands and face were also visible.
Dr Bolster said that Mr Bob’s lungs had collapsed after multiple ribs became fractured and that his injuries were consistent with those sustained through “kicking and stamping”. Dr Bolster concluded the cause of death to be “very severe and extensive” blunt-force trauma, a bilateral lung-collapse and pulmonary haemorrhage.
The jury was played extensive CCTV footage of Mr Bob and Anghel together on the night of April 12th and of them travelling on a Luas towards the par.
When asked in his garda interviews if he knew ‘Bob’, Anghel had replied: “He was a good guy, he was a nice guy. He salutes us. He would be hanging out with a lot of people. He would talk to everybody. But I do know he was a heavy drinker. He would be drinking everyday.”
He told detectives that he would only socialise with Mr Bob when he was in a group and replied ‘no’ when asked if he and Mr Bob would have ever gone off together. Anghel said he didn’t know what had happened to Mr Bob.
‘So much coincidence’
In her closing speech Elva Duffy BL, for the prosecution, said that while the case against Anghel was a circumstantial one, “the human condition can only tolerate so much coincidence until it is no longer a coincidence”.
Ms Duffy said it was not contested that at 3am on the night in question Mr Anghel was seen on CCTV attempting to use Mr Bob’s bank card at The Square Tallaght shopping centre next to the park. She said that when Mr Bob was taken to Tallaght Hospital, he had no bank card, cash or phone on him at the time. She added that Mr Bob’s phone pinged a cell phone tower at Whitestown ESB in Tallaght when it received texts at 3.20am that morning.
Counsel reminded the jury that key prosecution witness Garofita Selin “clearly recollects blood on the hands and boots of Mr Anghel” and had said that the accused complained of pain in his hands because he had hit a friend while drinking the night before.
Ms Duffy asked the jury to consider “how misfortunate could one person be if these are all a series of strange coincidences” and urged them to consider the evidence “in its totality”.
In his closing speech Padraig Dwyer SC, for the defence, told the jury to be wary of any possible prejudice arising from the fact that his client is a Romanian gypsy, a community that he said “might have a bad reputation as drinkers, beggars and fighters”.
He reminded the jury of the experience of Irish labourers who emigrated to the UK during the 1940s up to the 1980s and referenced the unsafe convictions of the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four as proof that “biases exist”.
‘Prism of prejudice’
Counsel said that his client “might lead a life that we might not lead” but urged the jury “not to look at him through the prism of prejudice”, before going on to say the Irish once had a reputation as “fighters and drinkers” in the UK. He said that any such bias would be “similar to the prejudice at trial that we suffered in a foreign country”.
Mr Dwyer said the burden was on the prosecution to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt and submitted that the case was “weak, paper thin and possibly dangerous”.
Mr Dwyer said the evidence for convicting his client of murder “falls well below the line”, adding that the prosecution “did not even have evidence of when the alleged murder took place”. Counsel said there was no DNA, fingerprint or fibre evidence in the case, that the prosecution had no eye-witnesses and that there was “zero evidence of motive”.
He said the evidence in the case was “nowhere near beyond a reasonable doubt” and told the jury they must feel any verdict they deliver to be safe because it would “live with you for the rest of your lives”.
However, the jury rejected the defence arguments after deliberating for three hours and 44 minutes over two days, unanimously finding Anghel guilty of murder.