I was wrong about victim threatening me, admits accused

A young man accused of running over and killing a man told gardaí he was wrong when he thought the deceased man was threatening him, a trial has heard.

Dara O’Sullivan (aged 22) said he felt scared and threatened when he saw Liam Stafford (aged 28) and his friend jumping onto the roof of his parked car in the middle of the night.

The trial has previously heard evidence that the car then “tore off” and Mr Stafford slipped under the front of the car.

Mr O'Sullivan of Clonard Rd, Sandyford, Dublin has pleaded not guilty to dangerous driving causing the death of Mr Stafford at Clonard Lawns, Sandyford on November 8, 2009.

Giving evidence at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, Mr O'Sullivan told Patrick McGrath SC, defending, that he and his three friends were panicking inside the car because they thought the men outside were attacking them.

He said he thought one of the men was looking at him through the window of the car before he jumped up onto the car.

James Clarke, a friend of the deceased, previously gave evidence that he thought the car was empty.

The court heard that Mr O'Sullivan locked the car using central locking but that he wasn't sure all the doors were locked because it was an old car.

He said he then turned the car engine on, put it into gear and drove off. He said he stopped after he saw Mr Stafford slip down the front of the car. He said this all happened in a matter of seconds.

He said he never considered getting out of the car, saying: “Getting out was the last thing we wanted to do. I was afraid of the people outside the car”.

He agreed with Mr McGrath that “the actions of the three men which you described as threatening were misinterpreted by you in the heat of the moment, in a panic”.

Garda Sergeant Robert Lacky told Fiona McGowan BL, prosecuting, that Mr O'Sullivan said that he thought Mr Stafford would jump off the car when he started the engine.

The accused told Sgt Lacky: “It was never my intention to do any harm to him or any of his friends”.

The trial continues before Judge Desmond Hogan and a jury of five women and seven men.

Garda Ned Davin said he examined the car and the scene of the incident and found no marks that were consistent with harsh or sudden severe acceleration.

He said the tyres did not show evidence that maximum breaking effort had being applied to them.

Garda David Kelleher told Ms McGowan that when he went to the scene of the incident he saw the deceased man’s leg sticking out from under the car and blood running down from there.

He said Dara O’Sullivan told him he had been driving. He said Mr O’Sullivan was in a shaken state and crying.

He said the accused told him that “three lads walked up and jumped on the car. I put the car in gear to move it and one of the lads fell off.”

Mr O’Sullivan also told gardaí: “I’m sorry. It was an accident. I didn’t mean it.”

He said a breathalyser test taken at the scene showed the accused had no alcohol in his system.

A report of the post mortem carried out by the deputy state pathologist Dr Michael Curtis concluded that the main cause of death was a crush injury to the chest.

The post mortem report also noted injuries consistent with the body being run over by a car and dragged along and crushed by the car.

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