A teenage accused was holding a knife during an argument outside a house party in Cork city where 20-year-old college student Cameron Blair was murdered, a witness has told the Central Criminal Court.
A girl who came out of the house and told the group of three boys who were gathered there to leave was punched by one of the group, who then laughed, the jury also heard today.
Under cross-examination today Dave Sheehan, who described himself as one of Cameron's best friends, told the accused's defence barrister that he had seen the knife "with my eyes", when it was suggested to him that he had "added on another layer" about the accused having a knife.
The jury has heard that the events of this case related to "a tragic situation" where Cameron, a chemical engineering student at Cork Institute of technology (CIT), died at Cork University Hospital (CUH) last year after being stabbed in the neck while attending a student party and another juvenile has already pleaded guilty to his murder.
Mr Sheehan (22) was giving evidence today in the Central Criminal Court trial of the teenager, who is charged with the production of a knife in connection with the murder of Cameron at a house on Bandon Road in Cork city on January 16th, 2020.
The now 16-year-old accused, who cannot be named because he is a minor, has pleaded not guilty to producing an article capable of inflicting serious injury in the course of a dispute, to wit a knife, in a manner likely to unlawfully intimidate another person.
Giving evidence today, Mr Sheehan told prosecuting counsel John Fitzgerald SC that Cameron was one of his childhood friends and they had known each other since they were both seven years of age. He said that their other friend was having a party at a house on Bandon Road in Cork on the evening of Thursday January 16th last year, which was during Freshers' Week.
They went to the party and at around 7.30pm, Mr Sheehan said there was a knock at the front door and himself and Cameron opened it. "It was a drunk man in his forties and he was trying to get into the house and we told him you can't come in. We closed the door and sat back down, but there was knocking again five minutes later, it was the same man, and he seemed to think he could come in. I think he thought someone he knew was in there, or he was so drunk that he wanted to come in," he said.
Mr Sheehan said the drunk man managed to open the door "for the third or fourth time" without them answering it as it was a "little bit broken" and he was again told to leave. After another attempt to get into the premises, Mr Sheehan said an occupant of the house pushed the drunk man and gave him a bit of a slap in the face before he stumbled and fell on the ground.
The witness testified that three boys, who he had never met before, were standing on the footpath outside the house. "They were saying to us it was lousy what had happened to the man, they were telling us to cop on," he added.
"They were saying to us it was lousy what had happened to the man, they were telling us to cop on," he added.
Mr Sheehan said that he and Cameron then picked up the man and began talking to the boys. "Cameron said they were sound and to let them come into the party," he said. He said the three boys were drinking vodka in the sitting room and talking to himself and Cameron. He described the atmosphere as "normal and calm" and said there was no tension at that stage. He agreed that he had taken a photo of the three boys at one point, which the jury were given copies of.
At around 8.15pm, Mr Sheehan said he went to the local shop to buy more cans with the boy, who has already pleaded guilty to murdering Cameron. "He asked me to buy them some drink and I said yes so then he walked with me to Centra," he explained. "I told him that he and his friends were going to have to leave as the people who owned the house had said that to me," he remarked.
When they arrived back at the house, Mr Sheehan said the atmosphere had changed and the three boys were trying to get back into the house and were arguing with his friends, who were standing in the doorway. "They were mostly asking to get back in and most of my friends were standing in the way so they couldn't get back in," he said.
Mr Sheehan tried to find out what the argument was about and the three boys were saying that they didn't have a problem with him or his friends and wanted to talk to "the Polish fella, who was trying to rip them off".
Mr Sheehan said the three boys were each holding a knife and standing on the edge of the footpath facing the front door.
Mr Fitzgerald asked Mr Sheehan if he saw the 16-year-old accused with a knife and he replied: "Yes, it was small, the blade was no more than four inches, it was a small knife." When asked how the accused was holding the knife, the witness said "down by his side in his left hand".
The witness said a girl then came out of the house and told the three boys to leave. "One of them punched her, I don't know who punched her," he said, adding that the three boys laughed at the time.
Mr Sheehan said he had not seen the boy, who has already pleaded guilty to his friend's murder, do anything to Cameron as he was staring at the girl who was punched. The witness said he had only seen two of the boys running away from the scene. He said that the 16-year-old accused boy was "staring in the doorway" and "looked shocked". "He stayed for a few seconds and then just ran in the same direction," he added.
Mr Sheehan said it was only when the three boys had gone that he saw his friend Cameron in the doorway of the house. "He was holding his neck, he had been stabbed. I went into the house and took my phone out and called 911," he said.
After the emergency services arrived, Mr Sheehan said he saw someone walking across the road with their hood up. "I didn't see the face and didn't know which one it was. They started running and a garda chased after them," he said.
At the beginning of his cross-examination, defence counsel Timothy O'Leary SC told Mr Sheehan that his client was 14 years old when this event had happened and the witness said he was 21 at the time. The witness agreed that Cameron was one of his best friends and they had grown up in west Cork together.
Asked how much alcohol he had drank on the day, Mr Sheehan said he had drank no more than seven cans. He explained that he was not "100 per cent sober" on the evening, but would not have used the word "drunk" to describe his alcohol intake. He said the occupant of the house who was throwing the party was a friend of Cameron's, but he had only met him three weeks prior to the incident.
Mr O'Leary put it to the witness that the incident which "kicked things off" was when the older man had tried to gain access to the party. "Yes, we would never have talked to the three boys outside if it wasn't for him," he replied.
The barrister also put it to Mr Sheehan that it was a "nasty enough thing" for someone to slap the drunk man on the face. "You could say that. If you saw the whole thing you might not say it was nasty. He kicked the door open at least twice and tried forcing his way into the house. We just wanted him to leave us alone," he said.
Mr Sheehan agreed with Mr O'Leary that this was the point where "the three kids" had become involved. "They were telling us it was lousy and to leave him alone," he explained.
Mr O'Leary put it to the witness that this was "a brave thing for those kids to do". In reply, Mr Sheehan said: "You could say that yeah. They didn't see what he did before so we told them about him kicking the door and that we weren't picking on him."
He said that his friend Cameron "was a nice guy" so he had invited the three boys into the party.
Mr O'Leary asked Mr Sheehan if there had been "an air of aggression" between the seven boys who blocked the doorway of the house and the three boys outside. "My friends were just telling them to leave and they were just persistent that they just wanted to get into the house to find [the Polish guy] so there was an argument yeah," he said.
Asked how long the accused had the knife in his hand, Mr Sheehan said for "at least three or four minutes". "He was standing there with a knife in his left hand facing towards the doorway and having an argument with my friends about wanting to get back in," he said.
In summary, Mr O'Leary told Mr Sheehan that he understood that Cameron was one of his best friends and he knew that his client had not stabbed the deceased. However, Mr O'Leary said he was suggesting that he [Mr Sheehan] had "added on another layer" about the accused also having a knife. "I'm not making a judgement about that at all but my client is contesting the charge," said Mr O'Leary.
In reply, Mr Sheehan said: "If you are suggesting he did not have a knife that is not true because I saw it with my eyes."
When asked what the 16-year-old accused was doing with the knife in his hand for those "three or four minutes", Mr Sheehan said the boy had it in his left hand and down by his side for most of the time and was "waving it around a little bit, arguing and trying to get into the house."
In re-examination, Mr O'Leary said the witness had never said anything in his statements about the accused "waving the knife around". "What difference does it make if he is waving it around or not," he replied. Mr O'Leary said it was "a matter for the jury".
In his opening address, Mr Fitzgerald told the 12 jurors that they must decide whether the accused produced a knife "capable of inflicting serious injury" in the course of a dispute at a house party where Cameron was murdered.
Last week, the boy pleaded guilty to committing violent disorder with two other persons present together, using or threatening to use unlawful violence, and such conduct taken together would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at Bandon Road in Cork city to fear for his or another person's safety at the said place on the same occasion.
The trial continues tomorrow before Mr Justice David Keane and a jury of eight men and four women.