Kerryman bled to death after blood vessel sliced with butcher’s knife, court hears

Man pleads not guilty to single court of murder as trial opens in Limerick

On the opening day of the trial, Blake Sweeney (21) with an address at Fertha Drive, Cahersiveen, pleaded not guilty to a single count of murdering Mr Elston at 1 Fertha Drive, on May 23rd, 2018. Photograph: Collins Courts

On the opening day of the trial, Blake Sweeney (21) with an address at Fertha Drive, Cahersiveen, pleaded not guilty to a single count of murdering Mr Elston at 1 Fertha Drive, on May 23rd, 2018. Photograph: Collins Courts

 

A jury will hear evidence that a Kerry father of one was stabbed to death while he sat on a couch at a friend’s house in Cahersiveen last year.

Robert Elston (33) from Lisselton, north Kerry, died in an ambulance on the way to hospital following the fatal stabbing, the Central Criminal Court, sitting in Limerick, heard.

He bled to death after a major blood vessel was sliced through with a butcher’s knife, the court heard.

A postmortem recorded a 16cm deep stab wound in his lower abdomen.

Mr Elston’s aorta was severed and part of his left kidney was cut in the alleged knife attack, the court heard.

He sustained another stab wound to his upper abdomen as well as a number of cuts to his body.

On the opening day of the trial, Blake Sweeney (21) with an address at Fertha Drive, Cahersiveen, pleaded not guilty to a single count of murdering Mr Elston at 1 Fertha Drive, on May 23rd, 2018.

Mr Elston regularly travelled to the estate from his home near Tralee to visit his ex-partner and their son, the court heard.

Outlining the prosecution case, Tim O’Leary, senior counsel for the State, told the jury they would hear evidence that, Aaron Sweeney - the accused’s brother who lived with the accused and their mother in the estate - woke up around 4.30am on the morning in question by “someone who appeared to be Mr Elston, shouting outside his home”.

Mr O’Leary said Aaron Sweeney will allege he heard this male say “I’m going to kill him”, and that the man “may have been holding an axe”.

Aaron Sweeney’s car was “set on fire at the same time”, Mr O’Leary said.

“I think you will hear evidence that Blake Sweeney left the house but came back straight away and took a knife from the kitchen...This knife is approximately eight inches long.”

Mr O’Leary said evidence would be heard the accused “took the knife from his house and walked” the relatively short distance to a neighbouring house.

He said the court “may hear evidence” from two prosecution witnesses, Sean McSherry and Nicola Farrell, “that they had been drinking with the deceased” in this house on the morning he died.

“You may hear them say they saw the accused Blake Sweeney walk into the house, and that Mr Elston was on a sofa, not armed, and sitting down at the time, and that, Blake Sweeney walked in and stabbed Mr Elston.”

Mr O’Leary said the results of Mr Elston’s postmortem showed he sustained “a number of cuts” to his body which were “consistent with a eight-inch butcher’s knife”.

The jury would hear evidence “these wounds caused excessive bleeding, internally and externally”.

Mr O’Leary said gardaí and an ambulance quickly arrived at the scene, but Mr Elston “died on the way to the hospital”.

A postmortem conducted later the same day showed the cause of death was from two large “stab wounds”.

Mr Elston sustained a stab wound to the lower abdomen “around his 12th rib” which sliced a major blood vessel.

This “cut a piece of his left kidney and sliced through the aorta - a significant blood vessel running down along the back”.

He said the postmortem report would show the injury to the aorta “caused the death, as it carries most of the bodies blood flow”.

“That stab wound had a depth of at least 16 centimetres.”

Mr O’Leary told the jury they would be shown a knife, which gardaí recovered near the murder scene.

Mr Elston had travelled from Tralee to Fertha Drive to visit his ex-partner Karen Douglas and their six-year-old son, the court heard.

The jury of seven men and five women were also shown maps of a number of crime scenes, including the house where the victim was allegedly stabbed, the accused’s home, and other areas in the estate near to where a knife was located.

Garda Laura Broderick, attached to the garda mapping section, Harcourt Square, Dublin, told the court there was about 205 metres between the home of the house where the victim was allegedly stabbed and the accused’s home.

Garda Mary Linnane, Cahersiveen garda station, said she took photographs of these crime scenes.

These included photographs, also shown to the jury, of a back garden of a house where a knife was located.

Mr O’Leary said the “burden of proof rests on me to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt”.

“The accused has been charged with murder, the most serious offence, and we have to prove that the accused intended to kill or cause serious injury, beyond a reasonable doubt.”

“If we haven’t done that you must find the accused not guilty,” Mr O’Leary told the jury.

He informed the jury “an accused person is presumed to be innocent” until a case is proven against them beyond a reasonable doubt. “We [the prosecution] say Mr Blake Sweeney is guilty,” he added.

The accused is represented by Defence Counsel Mark Nicholas SC.

Blake Sweeney, who wore a lilac shirt and speckled purple tie, spoke only when entering a plea of “not guilty”.

Mr Justice Tony Hunt told jurors not to discuss the case with anyone outside the jury.

The trial continues on Wednesday.