Trial of man accused of murder in a Limerick bar begins

Mark Crawford denies murdering Patrick O’Connor in row over payment for cocaine

Evidence will be given that the accused admitted to gardaí that he stabbed the deceased but said he had acted in self-defence. File Photograph: Collins Court

Evidence will be given that the accused admitted to gardaí that he stabbed the deceased but said he had acted in self-defence. File Photograph: Collins Court

 

A 43-year-old man has gone on trial at the Central Criminal Court accused of stabbing another man to death in a Limerick bar after a row over payment for cocaine.

Evidence will be given that the accused admitted stabbing the deceased to gardai but said he had acted in self-defence out of concern he was going to be attacked as he was not from that part of Limerick city.

Mark Crawford with an address at Quarry Road, Thomondgate, Co Limerick has pleaded not guilty to murdering Patrick O’Connor (24) at Fitzgerald’s Bar, Sexton Street, in Limerick city between July 7th and July 8th, 2018.

In his opening address, prosecuting counsel John Fitzgerald SC said the court will hear evidence that this incident happened in a bar on the north-side of Limerick city shortly before midnight on July 7th, 2018.

Outlining the facts of the case, Mr Fitzgerald said that Mr Crawford and Mr O’Connor knew each other “to some extent” because it appeared that the accused man had recently moved to the area to live in Limerick city.

The prosecution barrister told the court that both men had met in a betting shop on the day before the incident before going to Fitzgerald’s Bar with Mr Crawford’s sister.

The three individuals had a few drinks in the bar until 9.30pm and then went back to the home of Mr Crawford’s sister and continued to drink there into the early hours of the morning, said Mr Fitzgerald.

The lawyer indicated to the jury that Mr O’Connor left the house at 2am that morning and there is some suggestion that the deceased and Mr Crawford’s sister had “some romantic involvement” during the night.

A dispute between Mr O’Connor and Mr Crawford was heard by the neighbours the next day but “whatever this dispute was, it did not prevent both men going back to Fitzgerald’s Bar on Saturday afternoon and drinking on and off from there,” said the lawyer.

There will be evidence, counsel said, that Mr Crawford and Mr O’Connor were joined by a third man that evening and they all drank together.

Outlining the circumstances of the deceased’s death, Mr Fitzgerald said eye-witnesses in the bar heard “a sudden commotion” shortly before midnight and turned around to see Mr Crawford repeatedly punching Mr O’Connor, who fell to the ground. Mr Crawford left the pub immediately and witnesses in the bar went to Mr O’Connor’s assistance.

“It seemed Mr O’Connor was stabbed as he was bleeding profusely from his neck and was unconscious,” said Mr Fitzgerald.

Mr O’Connor was immediately taken to Limerick University Hospital but never regained consciousness and died before 1am, said the barrister.

Mr Fitzgerald said the postmortem revealed that two of the stab wounds to Mr O’Connor were fatal, one to the neck and the other to the heart.

Gardaí were called to Fitzgerald’s Bar and commenced their investigation which involved them looking at CCTV footage in which Mr Crawford was quickly identified, he said.

The court will also hear evidence, the lawyer said, that Mr Crawford was brought about 15km outside Limerick city by his sister and wife on the night. The following morning, the accused man was brought to Nenagh by his wife where he stayed in a hotel before surrendering himself to gardaí the next day.

During his interviews with gardaí, Mr Fitzgerald said the defendant admitted stabbing Mr O’Connor but said he did it in self-defence. Mr Crawford told detectives that he had become concerned during the day with Mr O’Connor that he was going to be attacked as he was not from that part of Limerick. The accused told gardai that a group of young people in the bar had given him a small flick-knife in case he was attacked, said counsel, adding that this knife was never found.

One of the eye-witnesses will say that they saw a “bit of a niggle” or some form of argument develop between Mr Crawford and Mr O’Connor on the night over payment for cocaine. “They had been taking cocaine together and Mr O’Connor was aggrieved that he had paid €100 for cocaine,” said Mr Fitzgerald.

Mr Crawford told gardaí he was in fear that he was going to be attacked when the argument developed between him and the deceased so he took out the knife and stabbed Mr O’Connor, said the barrister.

Mr Crawford told detectives he did not know how many times he had stabbed the deceased and it could have been three or four times, explained counsel.

“He said he did not know where he had stabbed Mr O’Connor on his body and said he did not mean to kill him and this was not his intention,” indicated Mr Fitzgerald.

The court will finally hear evidence, Mr Fitzgerald said, that Mr Crawford expressed considerable regret and remorse in his interviews with gardaí. “Ultimately, the net issue is whether or not you are satisfied that when Mr Crawford stabbed Mr O’Connor, he did so in self-defence or not,” said the lawyer.

Mr Fitzgerald explained that the State’s case was that stabbing a person in these circumstances would never amount to self-defence.

Giving evidence on Tuesday afternoon, Terence Roche told Mr Fitzgerald that he was working on a part-time basis doing stocktaking in Fitzgerald’s Bar in July 2018.

Mr Roche said Mr O’Connor came into the bar on his own at about 11.30am on July 8th and Mr Crawford arrived around 4.30pm.

Mr Roche testified that Mr O’Connor came up to him later that night and said that he had given somebody €100.

When asked by Mr Fitzgerald why Mr O’Connor had given this person €100, Mr Roche replied: “At the time I didn’t know but then I heard it was for coke”.

The witness said Mr O’Connor was in great form on the night.

Under cross-examination, Mr Roche told defence counsel Patrick McGrath SC that Mr Crawford, Mr O’Connor and another man were sitting at the bottom of the bar near the door that night.

Mr Roche agreed with counsel that he told gardaí shortly after the incident that Mr O’Connor had given €100 to Mr Crawford to get cocaine “and he got nothing”. Mr Roche agreed that he did not know Mr Crawford before this.

In re-examination, Mr Roche told Mr Fitzgerald that the deceased was upset over the €100 and he had told Mr O’Connor to relax.

The trial continues tomorrow before Ms Justice Tara Burns and a jury of 11 men and one woman. It is expected to last two weeks.