Man acquitted of former soldier's murder

A Dublin man who was charged with the murder of a former soldier nine years ago has today been acquitted by a jury at the Central Criminal Court.

Gary Watson (aged 35), with an address at Millbrook Avenue, Kilbarrack, Dublin 13 had pleaded not guilty to murdering Warren O’Connor (24) at Hole in the Wall Road, Donaghmede, Dublin 13 on January 16, 2010. Mr O’Connor died from a single stab wound to the neck and the knife’s blade was found “partially impaled” in his body when his post-mortem was conducted.

However, Watson was today found guilty by unanimous verdicts of assaulting Philip Woodcock (aged 34) causing him harm as well as the production of a knife on the same occasion. The defendant had also denied these charges.

Warren O’Connor.
Warren O’Connor.

The jury of seven men and five women took four hours and 11 minutes to come to their verdicts.

The two-week trial heard that a fight ensued between two groups of men after Mr Woodcock removed a fuse and cut power to his neighbour’s apartment so an allegedly "noisy house party" would end and the occupants would leave.

The trial also heard that one group - which included Mr Woodcock and the deceased Warren O'Connor - left Grattan Wood apartment complex in a Ford Focus car on the night before it was rammed by another group - which included Watson - driving a black Honda Civic car.

Gary Foy gave evidence that he looked out his bedroom window on the night when he heard shouting coming from Hole in the Wall Road. Mr Foy said he heard a man wearing a white hoodie say “get that into you” and saw him make a stabbing motion towards another man's chest during a row.

Mr Woodcock testified that one of the men in his neighbour's apartment was wearing a Russell Athletic hoodie on the night and had hit him with the top of his head. The witness said the man in the Russell Athletic hoodie later stabbed him in the shoulder on Hole in the Wall Road. After the attack, Mr Woodcock saw Mr O’Connor laying face down on the ground. He had been fatally stabbed.

Amy Kinsella gave evidence that she was at a party in her sister's apartment with Mr Watson on the night and he was wearing a white hoodie with writing on the chest.

Garda Damien Carroll testified that he recovered a black-handled knife from a building near Grattan Wood apartment complex in Donaghmede as well as three knives from a black Honda Civic car. No fingerprints belonging to Watson were found on these knives, said Gda Carroll. Furthermore, the court heard that Watson's fingerprints were not found on the blade which was removed from Mr O'Connor's body.

In her closing speech, defence counsel Anne-Marie Lawlor SC said the case "stands and falls" on Mr Foy's evidence.

Ms Lawlor said that in order to convict her client, the jury had to be sure that what Mr Foy said "was enough" as there was "nothing else" in the case. She explained that there was no forensic evidence nor CCTV footage of Mr O'Connor's "actual death".

"No one says Gary Watson killed Mr O'Connor, he [Gary Foy] says a man in a white hoodie stabbed the deceased," she argued.

In charging the jury, Mr Justice White said they had been asked by the prosecution to rely on the identification evidence of Mr Foy. He asked them to "be especially cautious" as there have been a number of incidents in the past where people have made positive identifications that had proved to be erroneous.

However, he said that if the jury were satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt as to the identification of colour, clothing and height, they were at liberty to act on it.

After the verdicts were returned James Dwyer SC, prosecuting, asked the court to direct a victim impact statement in relation to Mr Woodcock.

The court adjourned sentencing on the two charges on which Watson was found guilty until March 7 and Mr Justice White remanded the defendant in custody until that date.

Members of Mr O’Connor’s family wept when the verdicts were announced by the court registrar.

The judge expressed his condolences to Mr O’Connor’s family for their loss saying that the event had happened a long time ago. “He [Mr O’Connor] was a peacemaker on the night, trying to resolve an issue which caused great tragedy,” said Mr Justice White.

Addressing the O'Connor family, he said they had acted “very dignified” throughout the trial.

Ms Lawlor asked the court to order a governor’s report from Cloverhill Prison.



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