Man sentenced to life for killing in row over chihuahua

Life term imposed on Josh Turner for the murder of Christopher Nevin

One man was imprisoned for life while another will be sentenced next Monday for their part in killing a man during an argument over a pedigree chihuahua.

Josh Turner (24) of Mooretown, Ratoath, Co Meath, was found guilty earlier this month of murdering 27-year-old Christopher Nevin at a house on Tailteann Road in Navan on November 19th, 2015. Wayne Cluskey (25), of the same address, was found not guilty of murder, but guilty of manslaughter for his part in Nevin's death.

At a sentence hearing at the Central Criminal Court on Monday, judge Patrick McCarthy sentenced Turner to life imprisonment. After hearing statements from Nevin's mother Mary Nevin and wife Lisa Nevin, the judge said he would sentence Cluskey next Monday.

Garda Michael Fitzpatrick of Navan Garda station read the statements in court. Lisa Nevin said that her husband loved life and dreamed of having a big family.


“He had a heart of gold and if he had got the chance he would have been a brilliant father,” she said. Lisa Nevin described her late husband as her life and her future. “Without him I just feel dead inside. The last memory I have of my husband is lying in a pool of blood and I just wanted to help him and begged God, ‘don’t take him from me’.”

She said she has tried to take her own life four times and despite the help of psychiatrists she can’t come to terms with his death.

Mary Nevin described Josh Turner as a “monster” who had brutally murdered her son, robbing him of his future and breaking his family. “I miss his . . . smile. I miss seeing him and his wife happy,” she said.

In relation to Wayne Cluskey, she said she knows the jury convicted him of manslaughter, but her feelings towards him are the same as her feelings towards Turner.

Giving evidence at the hearing, Garda Fitzpatrick told prosecuting counsel Michael O’Higgins SC, that Josh Turner has more than 200 convictions, all of them at the District Court level. Most were for road traffic offences. He had one conviction for assault, one for unlawful possession of drugs and one for criminal damage and robbery for which he was sentenced to 10 months.

Cluskey has 41 previous convictions, again all dealt with by the District Court. He had one for assault causing harm for which he was sentenced to five months. He had 15 convictions for cruelty to animals. Shane Costelloe SC, defending Cluskey, told the judge that his client left school aged 14 with no qualifications.

Following the death of his father he took over the family lands at Ratoath and made a modest living doing manual labour, selling logs and leasing parts of the land. He asked the judge to consider that although Cluskey ran into Nevin and kicked off the violence that led to his victim’s death, he did not strike any of the fatal blows.

He said the jury’s decision to find him guilty of manslaughter rather than murder meant that they believed he was acting in defence of his friend when he “barrelled into” Nevin, who was holding a hatchet and threatening Turner.

Mr Costelloe further noted that Cluskey offered to plead guilty to manslaughter months before trial, but the prosecution rejected the plea. He said his client is "deeply sorry and very, very, very remorseful" and there was never any intention to kill Nevin, who Cluskey considered a friend.

Turner’s life sentence was backdated to November 25th, 2015, when he was first taken into custody following Nevin’s death.

Evidence in trial

The trial lasted eight days. The prosecution’s case was based largely on CCTV of the assault on Nevin, described as “savage” and “awful” by one barrister.

The State's main witness was Wayne Casserly, a close friend of Nevin and a friend of the two accused. Mr Casserly told the trial that Turner had loaned Nevin a male chihuahua to breed with three female chihuahuas.

But Nevin complained that the dog was “shooting blanks” as only one of the females got pregnant. A dispute arose over what Turner would be paid. Mr Casserly and Nevin were so close that when Turner wanted to speak to Nevin about payment for the dog, he called Mr Casserly, knowing the two would probably be together.

Turner and Nevin arranged to meet at Mr Casserly’s home on Tailteann Road.

In his evidence Turner said that Nevin had agreed to pay him. That was why, he said, he and Cluskey called to Tailteann Road that afternoon. Turner and Cluskey arrived by car shortly before 2pm and Turner knocked on the window of the house. When Nevin answered the door he had a hatchet in his hand.

Turner said that Nevin was "roaring and shouting" and threatening to chop his head off. He said he backed away and suddenly Cluskey entered the fray. Carrying an axe in his hand, Cluskey barrelled into Nevin, dropped the axe and the two grappled on the ground. As that fight continued down the driveway of the house Turner picked up the axe that Cluskey had dropped and used it to hit Nevin several times, including blows to the head that Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis said caused his death.

Meanwhile Cluskey got free, took the hatchet from Nevin’s hands and used it to strike him twice on the body. Mr Casserly called an ambulance and tried to resuscitate his friend. A passerby also stopped to help before paramedics arrived. He was pronounced dead in hospital some hours later.

Cluskey and Turner went voluntarily to Navan Garda station four days later and admitted their roles in Nevin’s death.

The judge had told the jury that they should find Cluskey guilty of manslaughter if they believed that he thought he was defending Turner, but that he used unreasonable force in doing so. He said they should find Turner guilty of murder if they believed that he intended to kill or cause serious injury to Nevin and that he had not lost all self control.