"I didn't intend to kill him at all", teen murder accused told gardaí

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Eoin Reynolds

A teenager on trial charged with murder told gardaí that he was panicking and trying to break up a fight when he stabbed the 18-year-old deceased during a melee in a Dublin park, the Central Criminal Court has heard.

The 17-year-old accused, who cannot be identified because he is a minor, said in a voluntary statement at a Garda station that the deceased Azzam Raguragui "started the whole thing". He told gardaí that he didn't know why he brought a knife with him and said he never intended to use it. He said the deceased ran at him and he took the first thing he could find in his pocket to "scare him [Azzam] off". He added: "I didn't intend to kill him at all."

The accused has pleaded guilty to manslaughter but not guilty to the murder of Azzam Raguragui on May 10th, 2019 at Finsbury Park, Dundrum, Dublin 14.

Detective Sergeant John White told prosecution counsel James Dwyer SC that the accused gave a voluntary statement at a Garda station one day after Mr Raguragui's death. He agreed that the accused told gardai that he doesn't smoke, drink or do drugs because he wants to stay fit for football. He detailed his movements on the afternoon of the stabbing saying he met up with friends and went to Finsbury Park in Dundrum. When they arrived, he said, they could see a large group of "lads" at the other end of the park. He recognised some of them and said hello. "All was fine and friendly," he said, but Mr Raguragui said there was a problem with another of the accused's friends and he wanted to "have a little chat" with him.

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When that friend arrived, the accused told gardaí, Azzam spoke with him and they walked together away from the group but then two of Azzam's friends walked up behind and struck the accused's friend. He said three of them "jumped on him and started punching and kicking him and he fell to the ground."

He added; "We ran to break it up but they then started on us. They were a lot bigger and stronger than us and we couldn't stop them."

He said he was frightened and tried to pull members of the other group off his friends but "it was pointless because of their size." After Azzam ran at him, the accused said he grabbed "the first thing in my jacket to smack him with, which was a knife that was in my jacket from earlier in the day."

"Remember my face"

He said he had no intention of using the knife but he struck Azzam with it and he thought it "landed in his chest". He struck him two or three times, he told gardai.

Following the stabbing he remembered Azzam running away while the accused ran after him "to keep him running away as he was the ringleader". He further recalled Azzam shouting at him: "Remember my face, remember my face."

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The accused then ran away and said that as he looked back he could see blood on Azzam's hands. He was frightened, he said, and threw the knife away. He further told gardai that he, "was only trying to break the fight up as [his friend] was getting beaten up. We were all a lot smaller. I panicked thinking I would be next on the ground getting beaten up."

He said he wanted to scare Azzam off with the knife but had no intention of using it. "Azzam started the whole thing and then went for me. I just panicked."

He told gardai he had never used a knife before on anyone and he didn't know why he brought it with him that day. He added: "I didn't mean to hurt anyone. I was afraid they would really hurt us." He said he was sorry it had happened and sorry for Mr Raguragui's family.

He later led gardai to where he had thrown the knife.

Earlier the jury watched CCTV footage of the movements of the two groups of teens before and after the fight. Detective Garda Steven Dunican told Mr Dwyer that he had condensed 100 hours of CCTV footage into a montage for the jury.

The trial continues in front of Mr Justice Paul McDermott and a jury of six men and six women.

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