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Trial of 43-year-old man accused of Limerick bar murder opens at Central Criminal Court

The man is accused of stabbing another man to death in a Limerick bar.

Image: Sasko Lazarov/RollingNews.ie

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 gardaí 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 24-year-old Patrick O’Connor at Fitzgerald’s Bar, Sexton Street, in Limerick city between 7 July and 8 July, 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 Saturday 7 July 2018.

Outlining the facts of the case, Fitzgerald said that Crawford and 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 went on to tell the court that both men had met in a betting shop on the day before the incident before going to Fitzgerald’s Bar with Crawford’s sister.

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

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

A dispute between O’Connor and 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 Crawford and O’Connor were joined by a third man that evening and they all drank together in the bar.

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

Crawford left the pub immediately and witnesses in the bar went to O’Connor’s assistance. “It seemed O’Connor was stabbed as he was bleeding profusely from his neck and was unconscious,” said Fitzgerald.

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

Fitzgerald said the post mortem revealed that two of the stab wounds to 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 Crawford was quickly identified by gardai, he said.

The court will also hear evidence, the lawyer said, that Crawford was brought 10 miles 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, Fitzgerald said the defendant admitted stabbing O’Connor but said he did it in self-defence. Crawford told detectives that he had become concerned during the day with O’Connor that he was going to be attacked as he was not from that part of Limerick.

The accused told gardaí 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 Crawford and O’Connor on the night over payment for cocaine.

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“They had been taking cocaine together and O’Connor was aggrieved that he had paid €100 for cocaine,” said Fitzgerald.

Crawford told gardaí that 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 O’Connor, said the barrister.

Crawford told detectives that 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 O’Connor on his body and said he did not mean to kill him and this was not his intention,” indicated Fitzgerald.

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

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

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

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Alison O'Riordan

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