Teenager who stabbed 18-year-old in a Dublin park found guilty of manslaughter

Azzam Raguragui died after suffering five stab wounds during fight in Finsbury Park, Dundrum

Azzam Raguragui (18) was fatally stabbed in Finsbury Park, Dundrum, Dublin 14 on May 10th, 2019

Azzam Raguragui (18) was fatally stabbed in Finsbury Park, Dundrum, Dublin 14 on May 10th, 2019

 

A teenager has been found not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter for the killing of a fellow teen during a melee in a Dublin park.

The 17-year-old, who cannot be identified because he is a minor, pleaded guilty to manslaughter at the start of the trial but his plea was rejected by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The victim, Azzam Raguragui (18), died after suffering five stab wounds during a melee in Finsbury Park, Dundrum, Dublin 14 on May 10th, 2019. The trial heard that one of the wounds severed an artery and caused massive blood loss which led to his death.

The boy’s defence argued that he believed he was acting in self-defence during a “terrifying brawl” having seen his friend punched, knocked to the ground and kicked repeatedly. The jury was told if the boy honestly believed he was acting in self-defence but used more force than was reasonably necessary, he should be found guilty of the lesser charge. The jury found by a majority verdict of ten to two, after more than 13 hours of deliberations, that the accused was not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter.

Azzam’s mother stormed from the court and repeatedly shouted, “It’s not fair,” after the verdict was read out. She was consoled by members of her family.

The defendant cried as he was hugged by members of his family before being taken to Oberstown Detention Centre where he will remain until a sentence hearing on October 12th. Mr Justice Paul McDermott thanked the jury for their service and invited the family of the deceased to make a statement to the court at the sentence hearing.

Confrontation

The trial had heard that earlier on the day of the fight there was a confrontation between Azzam and friends of the accused. It was alleged that someone in the accused’s group had stolen a bike and some of the accused’s friends said that Azzam threatened one of them.

The accused’s friends then met at a house in what prosecution counsel James Dwyer SC said was preparation for the later confrontation. In a statement to gardaí one of the boys present at the house said that the accused had the knife on him at that point. He told gardaí that the boy showed the knife around and asked him to look after it and give it back later.

The same boy told gardaí that as they entered Finsbury Park and saw members of the other group, the accused asked for the knife back. In his evidence before the court the witness changed his story, saying that the accused didn’t know anything about the knife until they were entering Finsbury Park. He said the accused took the knife off him so that they wouldn’t get into trouble.

The trial heard from members of both groups who were caught up in the melee . There was general agreement that the two groups met at Finsbury Park coming up to 8pm and there was a discussion that went on for ten to 15 minutes without incident. There was talk about the stolen bike but no violence, aggression or threats. When another member of the accused’s group, who was the subject of the alleged earlier threat by Azzam, arrived the atmosphere changed.

Different stories

Each side had a different story about what happened next. Azzam’s friends insisted that violence broke out after the newcomer punched Azzam in the forehead. The accused’s defence denied this and pointed to a pathologist’s report which showed no sign of blunt force trauma to Azzam’s forehead. The accused, in a statement to gardaí, said that Azzam “started the whole thing” and was the “ringleader” while the accused’s friends said the fight broke out after a member of Azzam’s group punched one of their group and kicked him when he fell to the ground.

Azzam’s friends said that during the fight they saw Azzam run up a slope and fall to the ground. At about that moment they heard a shout of “knife” and said they saw the accused run after the deceased and stab him while he lay on the ground. Defence counsel Michael Bowman SC questioned the credibility of these accounts, suggesting that Azzam’s friends made up this part of the story in a bid to get justice for their deceased friend.

Mr Bowman said the pathologist had agreed that the injuries suffered by Azzam could have been caused while he was standing up and he pointed out that three independent witnesses who were walking through the park did not see anyone being stabbed on the ground.

Patrick Lynch, Jacinta Milton and their daughter Irena Lynch were walking through Finsbury Park that evening and saw the fight. Jacinta Milton described the fighting as “nasty” and said she saw one of the teenagers running up a slope while a smaller boy ran behind him. The taller boy, she said, ended up on the ground and the smaller boy “got on top of him and they were really nasty kind of fighting.” Irena Lynch said she and her parents were just a few metres away when the boys “rushed into the park”. They were loud and boisterous, she said, and began to split into different groups. She saw one youth run up to a grass area where he stumbled and fell. She saw a few other boys standing over him and one of them was “in a threatening position standing over him” while the person on the ground was in the foetal position.

Patrick Lynch told Mr Dwyer that he and his wife and daughter were walking when they heard a noise and saw a “crowd of young lads chasing across the green.” Fighting broke out, he said, and “one young lad fell to the ground and a couple of lads were violently kicking this young lad.” He told his wife and daughter that they should leave and as they walked on he saw one of the boys running and falling while another youngster stood in a “threatening anticipating” way.

Mr Bowman said that the one thing all three descriptions had in common was that none of them saw anyone being stabbed on the ground. Mr Bowman said his client believed he was acting in self defence during a “terrifying brawl” that broke out after one of Azzam’s friends punched the accused’s friend and then “kicked him around on the ground”.

Charge to Jury

In his charge to the jury Mr Justice McDermott said that if the jury found that the accused honestly believed that he was acting in self-defence but used more force than a reasonable person would consider necessary then he should be found not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter. He further told the jury that if the force used in inflicting the wounds was the result of a planned attack, or due to anger or retaliation then the defence of self-defence is not open to him.

Acting State Pathologist Dr Linda Mulligan told the trial that she found four stab wounds on the deceased and a superficial wound also caused by the knife. The fatal wound to the chest severed the subclavian artery causing massive blood loss, collapse and death within a short period. The other injuries, she said, contributed to his death through blood loss.