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Teen found not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter of Azzam Raguragui

He will be sentenced next month.

Updated Sep 18th 2020, 5:53 PM

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 10, 2019.

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 that 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 Raguragui’s mother left 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 12. 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. 

Evidence in trial

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 that led to Azzam Raguragui’s death.

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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.

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.

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.

About the author:

Eoin Reynolds

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