Man changes plea 19 days into trial

A 23-year-old father-of-one has admitted killing a man, who was attacked with a machete before being dragged along the road by a car, following a three-week trial at the Central Criminal Court.

Angelo O'Riordan, of Point Road Bellurgan in Dundalk, had been on trial for the murder of Aidan Myers at Faughart, outside Dundalk town, in December 2006.

He denied the charge, but today, on day 19 of the trial, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter – following his girlfriend's evidence to the court. The plea was accepted by the DPP.

Mr Myers family and relatives broke down in tears as they left the courtroom. Their victim impact statements will be heard in November, when O'Riordan is sentenced.

It had been the prosecution's case throughout the trial that O'Riordan was part of a common design and was involved with a number of other men in attacking Mr Myers and his friend, after ramming into their car at Faughart shrine on December 12, 2006.

The prosecution said that when Mr Myers and his friend, Gearoid O'Donnell got out of the car, they were attacked with machetes.

As the two men lay injured on the road, O'Riordan got into a Mitsubishi space-wagon he had earlier hijacked, and rammed into Mr O'Donnell's Opel Astra which moved forward, dragging Mr Myers under its wheels, the prosecution said.

The 37-year-old died in hospital a few hours later after suffering three heart attacks.

Ms Pauline Walley, senior counsel for the prosecution, described it as a “random attack of gratuitous and extreme violence”.

In the absence of the jury, the court heard that O'Riordan's partner, Jennifer McBride, was arrested on suspicion of withholding information on the death of Mr Myers in December 2007.

During her interviews with gardaí, she told them that O'Riordan had come home in the early hours of December 13, 2006, upset, emotional and after drink.

He told her that “something bad had happened earlier.”

She assumed he had been with “the boys” because they had all left their apartment together that evening. Ms McBride said she told him she didn't want to hear any more, and said they never again discussed this “bad thing”.

After that night she said she heard gossip about Mr Myers death, but she did not want to believe it.

“I do not want to be associated with this incident, as I know what it's like to lose someone near and dear to you,” she told gardaí.

The court was told that she had lost her mother in tragic circumstances.

However, in her live evidence to the court last Friday, Ms McBride said that O'Riordan became upset that night because she was annoyed with him for being out late, when they had a young baby.

She told the jury he began talking about his brother, who had died three weeks previous, and his father whom he had issues with, and said “bad things were always happening”.

Ms Walley asked Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy to rule that Ms McBride was a hostile witness, because of the discrepancies with what she had told the gardaí.

Mr Justice McCarthy agreed, but before Ms Walley began her cross-examination of the witness today, O'Riordan's defence lawyer, Mr Padraig Dwyer SC, told the jury his client had given him new instructions.

O'Riordan then stood and pleaded not guilty to murder, but guilty to the manslaughter of Mr Myers. He also pleaded guilty to assaulting Gearoid O'Donnell.

O'Riordan was remanded in custody to be sentenced on November 8.

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