Teenager pleads guilty to violent disorder on night of Cork student’s death

Boy in court in connection with events around the killing of Cameron Blair last year

Cork student Cameron Blair died after being stabbed in the neck while attending a party. File photograph: Dave Meehan

Cork student Cameron Blair died after being stabbed in the neck while attending a party. File photograph: Dave Meehan

 

A jury must decide whether a teenager produced a knife “capable of inflicting serious injury” in the course of a dispute at a house party where a 20-year-old student was murdered, the Central Criminal Court heard on Friday.

The jury panel was told earlier this week that the events related to “a tragic situation” where Cameron Blair died at Cork University Hospital (CUH) on January 16th, 2020, after being stabbed in the neck and another juvenile had already pleaded guilty to his murder.

The 16-year-old accused, who cannot be named because he is a minor, went on trial on Friday at the Central Criminal Court on a single charge of the production of the knife in relation to the incident in Cork city on January 16th, 2020. He has pleaded not guilty to producing a knife during a dispute.

Before the State opened its case on Friday, the juvenile pleaded guilty to committing violent disorder with two other persons present together and using or threatening to use unlawful violence at Bandon Road in Cork city.

Opening the prosecution case, John Fitzgerald SC said the accused boy “comes to court presumed innocent of the remaining charge that he is facing” and his presumption of innocence remained throughout the trial.

Counsel told the jury that one must consider each charge separately so the fact that the accused had offered a guilty plea to the first count “did not mean anything” in relation to his presumption of innocence on the second charge. “You must treat it entirely separately,” he stressed.

In relation to the remaining offence against the accused, Mr Fitzgerald told the jurors they had to consider whether he had produced a knife capable of inflicting serious injury in the course of the dispute.

Outlining the facts of the case, Mr Fitzgerald said the jurors would be asked to consider events related to January 16th last year, the last night UCC Freshers’ Week.

Detailing the evidence that will be heard, Mr Fitzgerald said a large number of students were invited to a house party at Bandon Road. Among those students, the lawyer said, was Mr Blair, who was friends with the barman, one of three students who lived in the house. The barman had invited the deceased to the party and the jury would hear evidence from him.

The barrister described Mr Blair as a tall and athletic man, who was studying chemical engineering at Cork Institute of Technology (CIT). He had left his home in Bandon with friends and travelled to his student accommodation in Bishopstown on the outskirts of Cork city.

Mr Fitzgerald said the evidence will be that the four friends went to Mr Blair’s apartment, where they had some drinks until around 6.30pm that evening before getting a taxi to the party at Bandon Road. “A number of groups arrived there in the evening, somewhere in the region of between 30 and 40 people were in the house,” he remarked.

At around 7pm, Mr Fitzgerald said an older man in his 40s was “very drunk” and had pushed his way into the party at Bandon Road. “The latch wasn’t working properly so it was easy to do,” he said, adding that the older man was “working under the impression” that he knew someone who lived there.

There will be evidence, counsel said, that Mr Blair had pushed him out of the house on one occasion during the night but he kept coming back. However, the barman intervened, punched the man and he fell to the ground, he said.

This incident, said Mr Fitzgerald, was seen by three males, including the accused, who were not invited to the party but were standing outside the house. The group of three challenged the occupant of the house and some words were exchanged. However, Mr Blair intervened and said “they were all right and to let them come in” and the barman allowed the others into the party. “They had some drinks, they weren’t part of the student population and initially everything went reasonably well. They had their photo taken at the party,” he continued.

Around 9pm, the barman wanted everyone out of the house and specifically “uninvited people”. “To achieve this he told everyone they had to leave,” he said. “The uninvited guests left but there was not enough movement and some tension as to whether the party was really over or whether the uninvited guests were being asked to go,” he indicated,

The group of three which included the accused, were outside the house and tried to get back in. Mr Blair was helping the barman to keep them out of the house. Mr Fitzgerald said the trial would hear that the accused had left a phone charger inside the house, which was passed out to him, as well as some cannabis which he wanted to get.

Outlining the circumstances of the night, Mr Fitzgerald said there was “some pushing and shoving” at the front door and the accused and the juvenile, who has already pleaded guilty to Mr Blair’s murder, were trying to get back into the house. “Witnesses portrayed Cameron as trying to keep matters calm, trying to help his friends and trying to resolve the situation as a peacemaker,” he said.

At some point, the barrister said the juvenile who had pleaded guilty to murdering Mr Blair produced a knife and the accused had also allegedly produced a second knife in the course of the exchange at the door. “What is not in dispute is that [the juvenile who has pleaded guilty to murdering Cameron] stuck a knife in the deceased’s neck,” he said. “It happened so quickly that Cameron went back into the house not realising that he had been stabbed and not realising how grave his fatal injuries were. He collapsed quickly, lost consciousness and the emergency services were alerted,” said Mr Fitzgerald.

Counsel also indicated to the jury that the emergency services got the call before 9.30pm and Mr Blair was brought by ambulance to CUH. However, he did not regain consciousness and was pronounced dead an hour later at 10.20pm.

The court heard further evidence will be that a number of people ran from the scene but the accused had returned to the house, where he was seen by some occupants from the party and pointed out to gardaí. “They chased after him and arrested him,” he said.

Mr Fitzgerald said the case was not about whether [the other juvenile] had stabbed Cameron “because we know he did as he has pleaded guilty to his murder.” He said it was not about what [the second juvenile in the group] had done on the night. “It is about what [the accused] is alleged to have done,” he said, adding: “The remaining issue being whether he produced the knife in the course of the evening.”

The case continues on Tuesday before Mr Justice David Keane and a jury of eight men and four women. It is expected to last three weeks.