An illiterate prisoner on hunger strike fainted and cut his head moments before he was due to defend himself in a murder trial, a court heard.
John Dundon was due in court over the shooting of rugby player Shane Geoghegan when judges were told he would have to be taken to hospital instead.
The 30-year-old had been pushed into the Special Criminal Court in a wheelchair during a morning hearing, where he remained seated as he pleaded not guilty to the murder of the Garryowen player in 2008 and sacked his legal team.
But Dundon, from Hyde Road, Limerick, who cannot read or write, argued he was “out of his depth” and didn’t “have a clue” after agreeing to defend himself at the non-jury court.
As the trial was due to start at 2pm, Peter Kelly, assistant chief officer at Portlaoise high security prison, took to the witness box and told the three judges that the accused had injured himself during the lunch break.
“His cell call alarm system came up and the prisoner in the cell with John notified us that he had fainted in the cell and cut his head,” said Mr Kelly.
Mr Kelly, who had escorted Dundon to court, said he noticed a new cut on Dundon’s head and notified the chief officer on duty.
“We assessed John was breathing and in the correct position,” Mr Kelly continued.
The other inmate – named in court as double murder suspect Nathan Killeen from Limerick – was moved to a secure area and paramedics from Dublin Fire Brigade were called to assess Dundon’s condition, Mr Kelly added..
Dundon is expected to be taken to a Dublin hospital by ambulance this afternoon for further medical checks.
Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, presiding, was told the cell was not covered by CCTV but that the corridor outside was.
The judge said he presumed the footage could be supplied if needed and adjourned the case for medical evidence to be heard in the morning.
Tom O’Connell, prosecuting, said Dundon had the right to defend himself and be present for the start of the trial, but warned there were circumstances in which he might lose that right – “if he seeks to frustrate the criminal process, if he inflicted harm on himself”.
The judge said the court could not make any judgment and would wait for the medical evidence.
Earlier, the court heard Dundon had sacked his solicitors, Madden and Finucane, and his team of barristers.
When questioned by Judge Kearns if he wished “to do” the case himself, he replied: “Yes sir.”
But Dundon, dressed in a grey top and jeans, looked surprised when he realised that he had agreed to represent himself, telling the judge: “It’s a different legal team is what I’m looking for.
“I can’t read or write,” he later added.
Mr O’Connell told the court that the accused had been given full disclosure of all documents and CCTV ahead of the hearing, but Dundon said he had not seen any documents.
Asking the judge if he could speak he said: “I’m out of my depth here. I don’t know nothing about the law. I haven’t got a clue. I thought I was sacking that legal team and getting a new legal team.
“I left school at the age of nine.
“I don’t know what’s going on in here.”
Judge Kearns dismissed his appeals.
He told the accused the court would do everything to assist him during the trial, including handing over the daily transcripts of the hearing.
Dundon had previously lost a Supreme Court appeal to have the case adjourned because of the amount of documents and CCTV disclosed by prosecutors in recent months.
It is understood he has only been consuming liquids for a number of weeks in dispute of the case going ahead and looked frail, pale and thinner than a recent court appearance, when he wore only a pair of shorts in the court.
Geoghegan was murdered outside his home at Clonmore, Kilteragh, Dooradoyle, Limerick, on November 9, 2008.
He had been watching an Ireland rugby international with friends and was shot several times as he returned home.
Geoghegan’s family members and partner Jenna Barry were in court for the trial, which is listed to last several weeks.