The night lives changed forever
'I regret very much what happened. I never intended this to happen. No one planned for this when we were going out,' said one of the accused, Sean Mackey, about the death of Brian Murphy (above)
'This happens regularly . . . You see this all the time when we are out,' said one witness to the fight that, within minutes, would cause the death of an 18-year-old. Kathy Sheridan reconstructs the events that cost Brian Murphy his life.
For each of the four former Blackrock College boys, there was a moment when they realised their lives would be changed forever. It was the morning of August 31st, 2000. Desmond Ryan was still out at 7 a.m., playing cards in the Colossus Casino Club on Montague Street with a few friends, when he heard on the radio that someone had died after a fight outside Dublin's Burlington Hotel.
Seán Mackey, too, was still up well into the early hours. He was at his girlfriend's house in Clonskeagh when the news came through. Elizabeth O'Mahoney, his girlfriend, was a neighbour of Brian Murphy and the sister of Murphy's best friend. Earlier in Club Anabel, she and Mackey had had an argument, which ended up with her taking a lift home with her brother. When she managed to contact Mackey on a friend's mobile, he said that he had been in a fight. She told him angrily to come back to her house, where he arrived at about 4 a.m. and told her about a row with "some guy in a red shirt".
At around 5.30 a.m., her brother phoned the house and her mother came to the top of the stairs, crying and saying that Brian Murphy, their friend since childhood, was dead. Elizabeth O'Mahoney's parents went straight to the hospital.
"Brian's death affected my whole family", she said.
Two weeks later, according to her evidence, her boyfriend would tell her that he had kicked Murphy in the chest while he was lying on the ground.
Dermot Laide, from Castleblayney, Co Monaghan, went back to stay with his friend Alan Dalton that night. It was Dalton's father who told them the next morning that Brian Murphy was dead. Dalton said that Laide was "extremely shocked" by what had happened. Later, Laide's father would suggest that the two friends go down to Blackrock College - which all four of the accused had left more than a year before - and write down all they could remember without any outside interference.
Andrew Frame heard about Murphy's death when his mother came into his room the next morning to inquire about it. Later that day, she would take Frame to their GP, Dr Maura Stafford, who found a swelling of around five to six centimetres on the back of his skull, a small bruise under an eye and tenderness on the left side of his jaw. There was no evidence, said the doctor, of bruising or abrasions to his hands.
Meanwhile, the flowers and cards were building around the starry Club Anabel sign outside the Burlington Hotel, where Brian Murphy had spent the last hours of his life and where the events of the previous night had left Denis and Mary Murphy without their eldest son.
The scenes being played out around south Co Dublin were a long way from the tenor of the previous day - a fine Wednesday, when Andrew Frame and Dermot Laide went swimming in Killiney with Alan Dalton and Shane Fallon. Frame and Laide had maintained the close friendship forged as boarders at Blackrock College, the prestigious southside school where they had been players on its Senior Cup rugby team.
Frame had just finished the first year of his economics course at UCD. Laide, a student at the Dublin Business School in Aungier Street, had been accepted on a sports management course at UCD.
Seán Mackey and Desmond Ryan had been day pupils at Blackrock College in the same year as Frame and Laide. They had only dabbled in rugby. Both were bound for UCD, Mackey to begin his economics degree and Ryan to study agricultural science.
That evening, Frame and Laide, with Alan Dalton and Shane Fallon, dropped into the Magic Carpet off-licence, near Cornelscourt, to stock up on pint cans of Bulmers and bottles of Smirnoff Ice. Laide, who had arrived unprepared for socialising, went to the shopping centre to buy a toothbrush and razor blades before borrowing a set of clothes - a blue Diesel jumper, Firetrap jeans, a white T-shirt, a pair of deck shoes - from Dalton, his host for the night. Then they all set off for Shane Fallon's house, where they would be joined by about a dozen friends, including Seán Mackey.
Brian Murphy (18), from Ardilea, Clonskeagh, was also preparing for a night out, putting on his distinctive maroon Lacoste polo shirt. This would become "Exhibit 5" in the trial for his manslaughter.
None of the four accused knew Murphy. He had not attended either Blackrock or Clongowes Wood College, the colleges that would feature most prominently in the trial. He had come through St Conleth's, Gonzaga, and Bruce College, a grind school, and a post-Leaving Cert course.
He was a keen soccer player and not into rugby. Yet as the evidence unfolded from witnesses from a dozen different schools, so did the interweaving and overlapping of school, college, sports and social circles of south Co Dublin. Almost everyone knew, or knew of, everyone else.
ONE WITNESS, Barry Cassidy, a former Blackrock College student and friend of the four accused, had befriended Murphy while at Bruce College. Michael Hussey, another former student at Clongowes Wood and subsequently at Ashfield, had known Murphy for several years and they had become friendly in the last year of his life.
Alan Leonard, who arrived at Club Anabel that night with Frame, Laide and Mackey, had been in the scouts and had played soccer for Mount Merrion Football Club with Murphy. As mentioned, Elizabeth O'Mahoney, the girlfriend of Seán Mackey, was a lifelong neighbour of Murphy and the sister of his best friend. Louise Carpenter who knew both Andrew Frame and Shane Fallon, had been to primary school with Murphy.
Frame was a familiar figure in these overlapping circles. During a recent family holiday in Marbella, he had come across some former Clongowes boys, including Michael Hussey, who would become an important witness in the case. Brooke McVeigh, a young woman who was friendly with the Clongowes set, had also been in Marbella then. Fiachra O'Brien, formerly of Clongowes, would claim to recognise Frame from rugby and "from seeing him around town". Another former Clongownian, Richard O'Conor-Nash, recognised the two men fighting outside Club Anabel as Hussey and Frame because Hussey happened to be the younger brother of a friend of his and he had got to know Frame at UCD.
In the summer of 2000 Brian Murphy had a job working in the storeroom of Brown Thomas alongside his close friend, Matthew Moran. Murphy had never been to Club Anabel and a barman told him he could get them onto the guestlist, guaranteeing swift entry. Murphy and Moran met up later in the sports bar at UCD and took the bus to Appian Way, where Moran needed to retrieve his ID card from his younger brother before heading for the club.
As they entered Club Anabel, said Moran, Murphy pointed out "those guys from Terenure". Two weeks earlier, he recalled, Murphy had had a verbal disagreement with some youths from Terenure over "somebody doing something to Brian's ex- girlfriend". Another witness, Louise Geraghty, would tell the court that she had met Murphy outside the Palace disco a fortnight earlier, where he said he had been thrown out because he had "loafed" (headbutted) someone from Terenure College.
When Geraghty met him inside Club Anabel, Murphy told her he expected to be beaten up that night by "some boys from Terenure College" because of a row with one of them about his ex-girlfriend, Laura Murphy. Geraghty told him to go home. Laura Murphy then came over to speak to him and Geraghty left them.
Moran told the court that he was buying drink for Murphy that night, because Murphy didn't have much money and "he was my friend". Several witnesses gave evidence of seeing Murphy inside the club, in "fine form", "merry, not drunk". For many at Club Anabel that night, however, alcohol was clearly a central feature.
WEDNESDAY WAS students' night and the club was running some drinks promotions, a fact mentioned by several of the witnesses. Andrew Frame recalled that there was a £5 entry charge and that pints cost £2 for the first hour. Others remembered a Smirnoff Ice promotion.
Michael McFadden, a part-time barman at the club, noted that the crowd, aged in their teens and early 20s, were drinking "shots" and"shorts" early on in the night, which was "unusual". They would usually start with pints, he said.
Many significant witnesses had tanked up before arriving at Club Anabel. David Cox, formerly of Blackrock College, had drunk five half-litre cans of Heineken before leaving for the disco, a naggin of vodka (about six shots) on the way, then four pints and two bottles of Smirnoff Ice in the club. Seventeen drinks in total. He described himself as "tipsy" rather than "falling-down drunk".
Another important witness and former Clongownian, Fiachra O'Brien, had six cans of beer before going out, a pint in Madigan's, then five or six bottles of Smirnoff Ice and "possibly" some shots in the club.
"I was drunk . . . I wouldn't say I was very drunk," he told the court.
Morgan Crean, also formerly of Clongowes, had three pints of Carlsberg in Kiely's, plus two or three more pints and three or four vodka and Red Bulls in Club Anabel's VIP section. Michael Hussey, another former Clongownian, had three pints in Kiely's and another three pints of Heineken as well as three shots in Club Anabel. Alan Leonard had six cans of Amstel, followed by three or four pints of Budweiser and a couple of sambucas. Matthew Moran told gardaí that he had between five and 10 pints, and settled for "about seven or eight" in cross-examination. He agreed that Murphy probably had the same.
Andrew Frame had six pints of Bulmers before going out, followed by two long-neck bottles of Bulmers and a vodka and blackcurrant at the disco.
"I was drunk . . .", he told the court, "I wasn't stumbling around drunk - \ no, I can't have been alert to what was happening."
Dermot Laide had drunk two cans of Bulmers and four bottles of Smirnoff Ice in Shane Fallon's house, although his drinking appears to have ended there. One of the friends with whom he arrived at the disco was refused entry, possibly for age reasons, and Laide was rejected as "guilty by association". As he was staying in Alan Dalton's house, he had to hang around outside for several hours waiting for him to come out.
There would be evidence from several witnesses that Seán Mackey was "hyper" and "had had enough" to drink.
As the disco ended and not long before the violent eruption that would end his life, Brian Murphy, along with Matthew Moran and a group of lads, left the club, some of them smoking and rolling joints outside.
There was evidence of a number of incidents involving the group of which Murphy was a part, to which Judge Michael White drew attention in his summing-up. One was emblematic of the night as a whole, beginning in good-humoured high spirits before assuming an edge that became unpleasant and aggressive .
Aisling Walsh told the court that her friend was quite drunk as they left Club Anabel at 2.30 a.m. One of them sat down on the kerb and took her shoes off, whereupon one of the men took the shoes and wouldn't give them back.
"It was funny at first," she said. But when the girls became anxious, one of the guys "threatened to hit me and my friend . . . We were feeling a bit threatened . . . They were being quite aggressive . . . My friend was in quite a state".
The shoes were returned after she sought help from a bouncer.
There was also the incident of the milk-float. According to Michael Hussey, he and a few friends had met Murphy - described as "an adopted Clongownian" at the trial - on the corner of the Sussex and Burlington roads outside the Burlington Hotel. There was a milk-float parked at the traffic lights, he said, "and I picked up a milk carton and threw it".
Morgan Crean had a "vague recollection" of being hit on the back of the head by a milk carton. Matthew Moran said he could recall one of their friends stealing a carton of milk and being chased down the road by the milkman. Some of those involved (including Brian Murphy, Hussey agreed in cross-examination), began singing "hail to the milk driver" at the milkman. They were all laughing, said Moran, but nobody was mocking the milkman.
Judge White told the jury: "It's a matter you're quite entitled to take into consideration, as to the disposition of the group of which Brian Murphy was a part."
MEANWHILE, the 700-strong crowd was pouring out of Club Anabel, some heading for home or looking for fast-food outlets, some milling around to chat or waiting for lifts or taxis. The high spirits in Brian Murphy's group continued as they headed towards the club's crowded entrance and the final moments of his life.
The evidence diverges at this crucial point. All four accused left the disco in separate groups. Michael Hussey told the court that as they walked towards the entrance, Brian Murphy seemed to bump into somebody, or somebody into him, that they started "mouthing off" and that Murphy then hit the other person - Seán Mackey - on the side of the face.
Other evidence suggests that as Andrew Frame emerged from the disco, there was unprovoked jeering and aggressive behaviour directed at him by the group of which Murphy was a part.
Frame said that there were four or five guys outside the front gate, pointing and laughing at him. He recognised two of them from Clongowes - "I think one was Michael Hussey" - and from a recent family holiday in Spain and he believed the seeds of the trouble lay in Frame's association with a girl.
"I believe they were annoyed because I was with a girl called Brooke McVeigh, or something like that, while I was on holiday in Spain," Frame said. "She was very friendly with the Clongowes fellows and I understood they were not too happy with me."
Hussey admitted that he didn't like Frame because when they had met in Spain a few months before, he claimed, he could remember Frame "slagging me off" and "calling me a faggot".
Frame said he had met Hussey "once or twice" before that night and "I never once in my entire life called him a faggot". He said he had friends who were a year ahead of Hussey in school "and I remember chatting to them on a few occasions in Spain".
Frame responded to the jeers.
"I shouted over along the lines of 'fuck off' . . . I was just blowing them off. It wasn't upsetting. I just wanted the slagging to stop," he said.
Both sides were saying "fuck off . . . go home", said Frame.
As Alan Dalton walked out of Club Anabel, he saw five or six people standing in front of Frame and went over to ask if he was OK. "I think these guys are looking for hassle," Frame replied. Dalton said it wasn't worth it.
Frame then moved closer to the group because, he said, he couldn't hear exactly what they were saying. He and "a guy in a red shirt" - Brian Murphy - were "both pushing each other".
David Cox claimed there was nothing unusual about this. "This happens regularly . . . You see this all the time when we are out," he said.
Seán Mackey had started dancing or jumping around the group. Mackey told gardaí that he had gone over to the group because "they were dissing" Andrew Frame, "basically ripping the piss out of him. I didn't think this was on, so I went over".
Wexford man Paul Mooney, a student at Waterford Institute of Technology and in Dublin on work experience, had had three bottles of Miller beer during the evening and had just been dropped off near the Burlington. He saw two guys squaring up to each other, one in a red shirt, believed to be Murphy, and the other in a beige top, now believed to be Mackey. He saw the man in the red shirt punch the other in the face, then swing two more punches that failed to connect. Mackey did not retaliate, said Mooney, and walked away.
"I got the impression that his reaction indicated that he could take the guy in the red top if he wanted to," Mooney said.
Mackey said in his statement that he was "stunned" to get the punch in the face: "I said: 'What was the reason for that?' I said: 'What are you going to do next?' And one of his mates said: 'He's going to deck you again.' "
Mackey told gardaí that he then pushed Murphy, who fell to the ground: "He got straight back up and came at me. I asked him not to hit me but he kept coming. He hit me rather hard just behind my right ear . . . I came back at him and tried to hit him. I punched him in the head area."
Paul Mooney was looking at the man in beige, believed to be Mackey, as he walked away, and when Mooney turned back to the scene of the fight, the youth in red was on the ground being kicked by "definitely three people, possibly a fourth". At this point, Mackey returned and ran into the middle of the group with a "flying kick" to the man on the ground, connecting with his lower waist, after which he ran straight back out, saying "this is great craic". Mackey himself would tell the police that he was "hyper" after the fight.
"I clenched my fist and put my hands in the air and said something like 'this is mad', but afterwards I felt bad . . . I felt shit at what I had done," he recalled.
A taxi driver, William Quigley, would give evidence that a "hyper" Seán Mackey got into his taxi and began describing a fight in which he said he was punched by somebody.
"He then said that he kicked that person in the head and he heard his head snap," Quigley said.
Mackey's counsel contended that Quigley's recollection was a misunderstanding, that he had heard "bits of a conversation and put them together to form an answer".
David Cox said he saw Dermot Laide throwing punches at the man in red and when Laide came over to speak to him, he seemed extremely shocked about what he had done. According to Cox, Laide showed him a cut on his hand and said: "I can't believe what I just did. Look at my hand."
As Laide walked away, Cox said he saw the group kicking Murphy on the ground. Mackey, in his statement, said he watched Dermot Laide get involved:
"He hit him [Brian Murphy] with four or five punches, hard punches. Dermot Laide is a big dude and he was giving it his all."
Desmond Ryan, another of the four accused, admitted that he threw two punches to Brian Murphy's jaw area when Murphy was trying to get up off the ground but said that he quickly walked away, thinking: "This is not right." A group around Murphy were "kicking the shite out of him".
"It was like a wave of feet kicking him. The kicking was overboard," said Ryan.
Maeve Kenny said she saw Murphy suddenly fall to the ground. He was being kicked repeatedly by a gang of about six men. She told gardaí that they were "behaving like animals".
Meanwhile, Andrew Frame was engaged in a separate altercation with Michael Hussey, who had struck him from behind. Hussey said this was because Frame "was part of the group that started attacking Brian and, as he was the closest person to me, I grabbed him and punched him on the back of the head about three or four times".
He admitted that he did not see Frame land a blow on Murphy.
When Hussey looked over again, "Brian was just lying on the ground and not moving".
John Paul Lynch, a former St Mary's student, said Murphy "looked very badly beaten up . . . He looked like a rag doll. He was motionless, lifeless".
As the kickers ran off, he said he heard a comment, either "we fucked him up good" or "we sure fucked him up".
Michael Hussey believed he heard a "celebratory roar" from the crowd that had gathered, "going 'yeah', as if they were happy with what had happened as they saw Brian on the ground".
Maire Flavin, a former pupil of Alexandra College, told of a "cheer" going up from the crowd when "someone in a red T-shirt" came "flying" out of it.
"It sounded like a victory cheer, something like that," she said.
By most accounts, the fracas lasted no more than five minutes from start to finish. The serious part - the assault on Brian Murphy - took no more than 20 seconds.
But there was time for John Wall, who was working for Julian Benson Promotions at Club Anabel on the night, to run off to look for a doorman, after watching a "huge" fight break out. He looked in vain.
He met the car-park security guard, William Crabtree, and they went out to the roadway where the fight had been. They couldn't see anyone and Wall returned to the front of the hotel before leaving to go home.
IN THE meantime, Barry Cassidy had lifted Brian Murphy's limp body over his shoulder and carried him across the road to space and safety. An ambulance was called and Murphy was carried, with Desmond Ryan's help, back across to the hotel grounds, where, according to Maire Flavin, security men intervened to say they had to move him from there. In earlier evidence, William Crabtree, the car-park security guard, said he had put Murphy in the recovery position and tried to give him water.
While waiting for the ambulance, one group tried to persuade a taxi driver near the hotel to take Murphy to hospital. He refused, saying he didn't want blood in his car, said Kenneth McAndrew.
The ambulance arrived after about 20 minutes. Even then, according to Cassidy, the ambulance crew refused to take the boy at first, despite the shouted, frantic urging of onlookers, because they thought he was "out of it on drink". By the time Murphy reached St Vincent's Hospital at 3.30 a.m., his heart had stopped.
The then State pathologist, Prof John Harbison, would find that the 18-year-old had died from swelling to the brain due to the severe facial injuries he received after being kicked in the head. His condition had also been complicated by the inhalation of blood, which occurred from three cuts he received just above his upper lip.
It was Prof Harbison's opinion that the external facial injuries were due to blows or kicks from a hard object, possibly a boot or a shoe. A part of Brian Murphy's brain had been flattened and was bleeding.
His internal injuries, said the pathologist, were not consistent with a fall. There were no abrasions or injuries to his hands. He did not appear to have drunk "an excessive amount" and - although there would be evidence that Brian had smoked a few cannabis joints that night - the pathologist could find no evidence of any drugs in his body.
UNDER QUESTIONING, Prof Harbison agreed that it was difficult to prove what killed him because there was no footprint or sole-print on his head. It was also impossible to distinguish which facial injury caused the brain to swell. And the abrasions on his face, while severe to the extent that they contributed to his death, did not suggest that he was beaten "black and blue".
Matthew Moran followed Murphy to St Vincent's by taxi, with two friends, although he couldn't remember who they were. Matthew Britten and Morgan Crean were on their way there in another taxi when two young women, Beverly Ensor (for whom Frame had bought a drink earlier) and Mary Kate Finn, flagged it down. Their companions included Andrew Frame, Dermot Laide, Alan Dalton and Odran Rochford.
An argument ensued between the four men and the two taxi passengers but the driver agreed to take the two women home. It was an uncomfortable trip. The smaller of the men, said Ensor, was quite drunk, slurring his words.
"They made lewd comments about our appearance and clothing," she said.
One of them made a "physical gesture" and put his hand on her knee, upon which the taxi driver stopped and put the men out of the car and then returned for the other four.
In the weeks and months that followed, Dermot Laide, Andrew Frame, Seán Mackey and Desmond Ryan would give statements to detectives about their role on that night.
"I'm sorry it happened", Ryan told gardaí. "It should never have happened. I would put it down to too much drink . . . The guy should be going to college and enjoying himself . . . If I could turn the clock back and change everything, I would."
Mackey said that he only got involved to protect Frame. "I want to say that I regret very much what happened," he said. "I never intended this to happen. No one planned for this when we were going out."
Frame accepted responsibility for his role at the start of the fight. Asked if the fight would have started had he not moved over towards Murphy in response to the taunts, he replied: "No, this fight would not have started . . . I'm sorry for what happened. No-one planned for this."
Laide, who always contended that he only "jumped into it" when he saw Frame "being badly beaten up", admitted his involvement: "I gave him two good belts. I have nothing more to say."