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Dublin: 18 °C Wednesday 17 July, 2019
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Man jailed for life for baseball bat murder of 20-year-old who gave his car "a thump"

Zoltan Almasi was found guilty of the murder of 20-year-old Joseph Dunne in Co Kildare in 2014.

15739996052_99587e217d_o Source: Richard Woffenden

A HUNGARIAN NATIONAL has been jailed for life for murdering a 20-year-old Kildare man with a baseball bat.

Zoltan Almasi (44) with an address at Harbour View, Naas, Co Kildare was charged with murdering Joseph Dunne at the same address on 16 May 2014.

Three weeks ago at the Central Criminal Court Almasi pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr Dunne.

On 10 March a jury of six men and six women found Almasi guilty by majority verdict of murdering Mr Dunne in Kildare over two years ago. They had deliberated over four days for a period of eleven hours and 13 minutes.

Following last week’s verdict Ms Justice Heneghan thanked the jury and exempted them from jury service for a period of fifteen years.

Today prosecution counsel Mr Bernard Condon SC called Sergeant Paul Maher of Naas Garda Station to summarise the evidence in the case.

The court heard that Joseph Dunne was the youngest of four boys and both his parents are still alive.

Sgt Maher agreed with counsel that Almasi has three previous convictions for road traffic offences.

Almasi has been in custody since 16 May 2014 and at the time of the offence he was working for a courier company.

Sgt Maher also agreed with defence counsel Mr Colm O’Briain SC that his client’s wife and stepson had previously resided in Naas but they have since moved to Canada.

The court heard Almasi has three children from a previous relationship and they reside in Hungary.

Ms Justice Margaret Heneghan then sentenced Almasi to life imprisonment and backdated it to the date of his arrest on 16 May 2014.

“It would be remiss of me in the circumstances not to extend my sympathy to the family of Joseph Dunne,” she said.

Evidence

It was the State’s case that Mr Almasi attacked Joseph Dunne with a baseball bat after he hit his white Mercedes van.

The court heard Mr Almasi lived alone at Harbour View in rented accommodation and worked for a courier company.

He was born in Serbia but became a Hungarian national around 2007.

The jury heard evidence that CCTV footage showed Mr Almasi raising his right arm as he chased the deceased and moments later recorded him running away with a baseball bat in his right hand.

At the beginning of the trial, prosecution counsel Mr Bernard Condon SC called Mikey McDonagh to give evidence.

The 20 year-old-man from Kildare told the jury he met up with the deceased and another friend Gavin Breen on 16 May 2014.

The jury heard that Joseph Dunne was “smacked” “at the back of his head” by a man with a baseball bat after the deceased hit a parked van “a thump.”

When the witness was asked how the man hit him Mr McDonagh said: “He raised the bat with his right hand. JoJo (Joseph Dunne) was running. He was facing away from the man and had his back turned.”

The court heard when Joseph Dunne was hit he fell to the ground.

During the trial the court heard that three finger marks were lifted from the outside of a white Mercedes van in the Harbour View area of Naas.

The first two sets of finger marks were made by Mr Almasi’s “right middle finger” and the third set of finger marks were “likely to be made by Joseph Dunne’s left forefinger”.

Gardaí also told the court they took possession of a baseball bat from a house at Harbour View. An examination for finger marks and palm marks was carried out but with negative results.

Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis was called to give evidence and he told the court that Joseph Dunne died from blunt force trauma to the head which was consistent with a blow from “the very tip of a baseball bat”.

Prosecution counsel Mr Condon also called Garda Stephen Flaherty of Naas Garda Station to give evidence.

Gda Flaherty told the court he was preserving the scene outside the Vie de Châteaux restaurant in Naas on 16 May when he was approached by a male at 11.20pm.

When this man was asked for his name and address, he gave the name of Zoltan Almasi with an address in Naas.

Gda Flaherty then asked Mr Almasi if he had witnessed anything.

The garda said Mr Almasi told him: “I came home and parked my car behind the garage. I went into the house and heard bang, bang, bang. There were four guys and one girl outside my house damaging my car.”

The court heard Mr Almasi said he then came out of his house with a baseball bat and followed one of the men who then “fell to the floor”.

Mr Almasi told gardaí in his first and second interviews that he did not strike the deceased with his baseball bat as he is “not capable of doing it”.

When gardaí asked Mr Almasi if it was possible “the very tip of the baseball bat hit” Joseph Dunne, the accused replied: “I don’t know, I didn’t feel me hitting him.”

In the fourth interview Mr Almasí was asked by gardai if he accepted that his baseball bat hit Joseph Dunne. Mr Almasi replied: “I can’t accept something I can’t remember doing. Things happened very fast, I was angry.”

It wasn’t my intention to hit anyone. Most likely it was an accident. I don’t remember hitting him.

Victim impact statement

Prosecution counsel Mr Bernard Condon SC today called Richard Dunne to read a Victim Impact Statement to the court on behalf of the Dunne family.

The court heard Richard Dunne is the second eldest boy in his family and he called JoJo Dunne (Joseph Dunne) his “baby brother”.

“I’m reading this on behalf of JoJo’s family and friends. He touched so many lives in the short space of time he spent with us. There were a lot of pictures painted of him since this whole ordeal started and hopefully this one will be remembered as it comes straight from our hearts,” he read.

Richard Dunne said his brother was “a kind, gentle, loving and caring lad in every sense of the word”.

The court heard Joseph “never turned his back on anyone that needed help”.

“He always made time to visit his grandparents. He used to love travelling around with his granddad in his green van or as he called it his Rolls-Royce. JoJo loved his family in every sense of the word. It is so sad to know he won’t ever have a chance to start his own family,” he read.

“JoJo had his whole life ahead of him. He had a wise head on such young shoulders. He was diligent in his work and commuted from Athy to Newbridge every day on a bus. He knew he had to start somewhere,” he added.

Richard Dunne said it was “not fair” that his brother’s life was “cut short for no good reason”.

“Nobody deserves to have their life taken away. We can’t begin to explain the devastation this has caused us. It has left a hole in our lives and an emptiness that can never be filled. We as a family will never come to terms with what has happened.”

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Alison O'Riordan

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