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Cian English, who was originally from Carlow Town.
Brisbane

Three men jailed for balcony death of Irish teenager in Australia during an armed robbery

The three men fled the scene within minutes and without attempting to help after Cian English fatally fell from the fourth-floor balcony.

TWO MEN HAVE been jailed for nine-and a half-years and a third to eight years for the manslaughter of an Irish teenager who died in Australia after he fell from an apartment balcony during an armed robbery.

Cian English, 19, originally from Carlow town, but who lived in the Brisbane suburb of Hawthorne, suffered traumatic injuries when he fell from a fourth-floor balcony at the View Pacific resort in Surfers Paradise in the early hours of Saturday, May 23, 2020.

He had been spending a couple of days on the Gold Coast with a friend.

Jason Ryan Knowles (25), Hayden Paul Kratzmann (23) and Lachlan Paul Soper-Lagas (21) had been charged with murder but agreed to a plea deal of manslaughter.

Their convictions for two of torture, two of armed robbery with actual violence, wounding, using personal violence and stealing on May 23, 2020 will run concurrently.

The trio appeared before Chief Justice Helen Bowskill in Queensland Supreme in Brisbane.

On sentencing Chief Justice Bowskill said: “This is an absolutely tragic case. Your appalling, criminal conduct in the early hours of the morning, on 23 May 2020, resulted in the death of one young man, Cian English, who was only 19 at the time.

“A young man, very much loved by his family and friends, who have suffered unfathomable grief and pain as result of his death, compounded by the awful circumstances in which that occurred.

“Your conduct also caused severe harm, in particular psychological harm, to a second young person, Mr Dzepo, also only 19 at the time.”

The judge continued that by entering pleas of guilty, each has taken responsibility for their actions and have facilitated the course of justice, including by saving the community the cost and the family of the victims and Dzepo the trauma of a trial of these serious charges.

“None of you showed any remorse at the time of the offending. You all left the deceased where he lay and did nothing to help him, other than, half an hour later, you, Mr Kratzmann dialling 000, and providing incomplete and unhelpful information to emergency services,” she noted.

“It is fair to say that your other actions on that fateful morning negate anything positive that could be said about that, including all of you wearing and using the clothes and other things you’d stolen from these young men, and you posting a picture of that on Instagram, Mr Kratzmann, as though bragging about your prizes. Mr Soper-Lagas, you told the psychologist that you called an ambulance – but you did not.

“I feel sure that now, almost three and a half years later, which you Mr Kratzmann and Mr Knowles have spent entirely in custody, and you Mr Soper-Lagas spent part of in custody, you bitterly regret your actions. And you now have all taken responsibility, by pleading guilty.

“For what it is worth, I am prepared to accept that, now, you are remorseful, in the sense of being regretful and sorry for your actions. You have, in the course of this sentencing hearing, heard first hand from some of Mr English’s family members about the unbelievable anguish his death, and the circumstances of it, have caused them; and of the impact your actions had on Mr Dzepo.

“I can only hope that will have pierced your hearts, and brought home to you the enormity of the consequences of your actions, to be used by you in the future to guard against any repetition of those actions. In the eyes of Mr English’s family, there can be no more serious offence, as they have lost their loved one.”

The court heard that Mr English and his friend began chatting with the three accused outside while on their balconies. The Australian men invited the pair up to their apartment on the fourth floor where they were having a party with several others.

A party was amicable to begin with Chief Justice Bowskill heard, but Crown Prosecutor Caroline Marco said the atmosphere changed at 1.44am when Kratzmann started blaming Mr English and his friend of stealing their prescription and non-prescription drugs.

However, it was an associate of Kratmann who had taken the drugs. Mr English and his friend were subjected to physical and mental abuse by the three accused.

Mr English was stabbed on one of his arms and his friend was hit on the head with a handle of a knife.

Marco informed the court Mr English ran to the apartment balcony believing he probably would not make it out of the apartment front door safely.

She added it was “most likely” that he attempted to climb down to his apartment but fatally fell. The three men fled the scene within minutes without attempting to help.

Mr English was declared dead by paramedics at 3.53am.

Mr English’s family including his mother Siobhan, father Vincent and brother Dylan also gave victim impact statements detailing how much they miss him, suffer with the trauma and torture of nightmares and how words would never explain what they will live with for the rest of their lives.

On sentencing Chief Justice Bowskill said in the case of Knowles, that “on count 1 (manslaughter) you are sentenced to nine years and six months’ imprisonment.

“On each of counts 2 and 3 (torture) you are sentenced to four years’ imprisonment, on count 6 (stealing) you are sentenced to six months’ imprisonment.

“Counts 4 and 5 (armed robbery), you are convicted, the convictions are recorded, but you are not further punished, having regard to the penalties imposed on counts 1, 2 and 3.”

Kratzmann was also sentenced to nine and a half years for manslaughter and the same sentences for torture, stealing, armed robbery and 12 months for entering a premises with intent.

Each of those terms of imprisonment for both men are to be served concurrently.

However, in the case of Kratzmann the Chief Justice added: “I declare that the time you have served in custody from 24 May 2020 to 7 September 2023, which is 1202 days, is time served under the sentences I have imposed.”

She fixed the date he is eligible for parole when he has served six years of the sentence on count 1, which will be 23 May, 2026.

In the case of Soper-Lagas Chief Justice Bowskill continued: “In the case of Mr Soper-Lagas, it is appropriate that a lower head sentence be imposed, reflecting your lower level of culpability.

“Nevertheless, your involvement in this offence, whilst armed, remains serious and warrants a stringent penalty. Taking into account your young age, lack of history and pleas of guilty, you are sentenced to eight years imprisonment.

“A declaration of the time you have served will also be made, and I will fix the date that you are eligible for parole at slightly less than half the sentence, three years and three months.”

In Queensland, manslaughter carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, as does armed robbery in company with violence.

Torture carries a maximum of 14 years, and the additional offence of entering premises with intent carries a maximum of 10 years.

Soper-Lagas’s barrister informed Chief Justice Bowskill that the 21-year-old “regrets and is remorseful” for what happened that night and he sees the dead teenager first thing in the morning when he wakes and last thing at night.

Barrister for Kratzmann said he was disgusted by his own behaviour but suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) due to being abused as a child and had given a letter of apology to Mr English’s family.

Two girls, who cannot be named for legal reasons, are alleged to have filmed the beating, stabbing and fatal fall of Mr English while subsequently posting video of the events on social media.

Their cases are due before the Supreme Court on 25 October.

The Irish teenager was living with his parents Siobhan and Vinny and older brother Dylan.

The family left Ireland 20 years ago, first to the Caribbean where Cian’s father worked for Digicel and then settled in Brisbane in 2011.

His ashes were laid to rest in St Mary’s cemetery, Leighlinbridge, Co Carlow several weeks after his death.