Down man admitted stabbing friend to death, inquest told

A man walked into a police station after a heavy drinking session and announced to police he had stabbed his friend to death, an inquest heard today.

Paul O’Brien arrived at the PSNI station in Downpatrick, Co Down at 6.15am on a Sunday morning in early March 2004 to tell police he had stabbed his friend Colin McCarthy.

He later told an officer he had struck out after being been touched inappropriately and added: “I am not having anyone do that to me so I stiffed him”.

Constable Gerard McKenna, who had been on duty at the station desk when Mr O’Brien walked in, said: “He was muttering to himself and smelt strongly of alcohol. He said he had woken from a drinking session and found a body beside him with a knife in it.”

He said O’Brien mentioned his friend Colin and declared: “I have just stabbed him”.

O’Brien told another officer, Constable Robert Young: “I must have done it because no-one else was there. I stabbed him in the chest, the knife was sticking out of him. I washed my hands before coming here”.

O’Brien took police to the flat in Kennedy Square, Downpatrick where 40-year-old unemployed labourer Colin McCarthy lived and the body was found lying beside the bed covered in blood.

Police witnesses told the Belfast inquest there was no knife in the body and a search of the flat failed to find the murder weapon.

An autopsy report read to the court by coroner Brian Sherrard, revealed that Mr McCarthy – who had a decade long drink problem – had been “grossly intoxicated” with a blood-alcohol reading more than four times the drink driving limit.

He had been stabbed six times in the neck and chest and two knife blades had snapped off and were still in the chest wounds.

The Assistant State Pathologist who wrote the report declared the wounds “non-survivable”, said the coroner.

Inside the flat O’Brien continued mumbling to himself and muttering about how he had killed his friend, said police witnesses.

Constable Catherine Andrews told the coroner O’Brien said to her that Mr McCarthy touching him had sparked the murder. “He said Mr McCarthy touched him inappropriately and that he had not liked it. He said he hit him and Mr McCarthy pulled a knife and he took it off him and plunged it into his chest.

“He said ’I am not having anyone do that to me so I stiffed him’.”

When Mr O’Brien was charged with murder the next day he replied “guilty of the charge”, the inquest was told.

However when he appeared in Laganside Court on 2005 he pleaded not guilty to murder and the following year the judge stopped his trial and directed the jury to return a verdict of not guilty to murder due to his insanity and unfitness to plead.

Mr O’Brien, who was committed to a mental hospital indefinitely by the judge, was brought to the inquest by two guards. He sat head bowed through much of the hearing under the gaze of members of the McCarthy family. When asked by Mr Sherrard whether he had anything to add to the evidence replied no.

The inquest was told by Mr McCarthy’s girlfriend – who was in hospital at the time of his death – that he had been scared of an unnamed man in Downpatrick who had threatened him some months before after Mr McCarthy refused to stand bail for him and had barricaded his door with a plank of wood.

The coroner urged police to take a statement from the girlfriend, Anne Devine, and added: “It appears to me there may well be other leads the police may follow up on.”

He expressed his sympathy to the McCarthy’s for “this terrible act” that no one had been made amenable for.


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