Murder accused to gardaí: 'I had it in my head to kill somebody'

A young Cavan man accused of murdering his father told gardaí: “I always had it in my head growing up to kill somebody”, the Central Criminal Court has heard.

Seamus Fitzgerald (aged 21) has pleaded not guilty to murdering his father James Fitzgerald in Lisgar, Baileborough, Co Cavan on January 8, 2006.

Garda Peter O’Sullivan, Baileborough Garda Station, told the jury that Seamus Fitzgerald told him during an interview subsequent to his arrest that he killed his father.

He said that Seamus told him that James Fitzgerald was in the kitchen, asleep in a chair, that he “put a telephone flex around his neck and pulled him to the floor” and that, when the flex broke, he “put his hands to his father’s throat and pushed.”

Gda O’Sullivan said that the accused told him that he then “dragged” his father from the kitchen to a hallway at the back of the house and that he “stabbed him in the chest with a kitchen knife and broke his finger.”

Seamus also told Gda O’Sullivan: “I always had it in my head growing up to kill somebody.

“I had awful pains in my head as a child, dreams about pains in the head, things like that.”

Joseph Fitzgerald (aged 23), brother of the accused, told the jury that he was living at home with his parents and Seamus at the time of the alleged murder.

He said that he was asleep in the early hours of January 8 when he received a phonecall from his girlfriend at 2.30am, asking for a lift.

When he went downstairs he discovered his father’s body. It was lying face up in a hallway at the back of the house.

Joseph said that he checked for signs of life and screamed when he found none.

He said that the window in Seamus’ bedroom was “slightly ajar” and that all other windows and doors were locked.

Mary Fitzgerald told the jury that she received a phonecall from Seamus, her brother, two days before the alleged murder.

“He asked me about money. He said he’d seen a car in Autotrader and asked me for the loan of €4,000 to buy the car.”

Mary told her brother that she didn’t have that kind of money.

“In the end he said he might ask my father for it,” she said.

It is the prosecution’s case that the motive for the alleged murder was that Seamus wanted to take money from his father to buy the car.

The jury also heard evidence from Seamus’ family in relation to his background.

Mr Justice Kevin O’Higgins told the jury that such evidence could relate to the “misconduct or bad actions of the accused.”

He said that the jury would “not normally hear this type of evidence because they are to try a case of murder and cannot convict on the basis of bad character.”

“But, in this case, there’s a high degree of probability that there may be an issue concerning diminished responsibility.”

This issue would be based on the expert evidence of psychiatrists, he said, adding that, in coming to their opinion, the psychiatrists will have “replied upon history of past actions.”

Susan Fitzgerald, widow of the late James Fitzgerald and mother of the accused, told the jury that, when he was four-years-old, Seamus fell off his bike, fracturing his skull.

She said that Seamus was a “very loving child” but that around the time of his Junior Cert, his attitude “changed completely.”

“He started to damage cars in town, insult people. He was in the habit of breaking things.”

Susan said that her husband thought it was “ordinary teenage behaviour.”

“But it was something different,” she said.

“Seamus once destroyed his bedroom with black spraypaint.”

Susan told defence counsel Patrick Gageby SC that the years before her husband’s death, when Seamus was at home, were “hell on earth.”

She said that she wrote to Minister of Health Mary Harney in 2004, asking for help, and that she was sent back a letter, telling her to go to the Health Board.

“The same people we were at before,” she said.

Mary Fitzgerald told the jury that she also noticed a change in her brother’s character around the time of his Junior Cert – “from growing up, loving and caring, involved with friends and with drama groups, then to change to be very withdrawn, lack of conversation, quite the opposite of what he was.”

Mary said that she “noticed aerosols and perfumes begin to go missing around the house and empty ones being found in Seamus’ bedroom.”

Earlier, Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis told the jury that the cause of death was strangulation and stab wounds to the chest.

He agreed with prosecuting counsel Alex Owens SC that these causes were “essentially contemporaneous.”

Meanwhile, Mr Justice O’Higgins discharged one of the jury members today after he was taken ill and brought to hospital.

The trial will continue tomorrow in front of the jury of seven women and four men.

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