A JURY has returned a verdict of unlawful killing at an inquest into the death of Brian Murphy, the young man who died following a “vicious and sustained” assault outside the Burlington Hotel, Dublin, in August 2000.
Mr Murphy, 18, of Ardleigh, Clonskeagh, was pronounced dead at St Vincent’s Hospital at 4.57am on August 31, 2000, following the assault by a group outside Club Annabel’s on Sussex Street that morning, Dublin City Coroner’s Court heard yesterday.
Mr Murphy died of swelling of the brain (cerebral oedema) and inhalation of blood due to multiple facial injuries consistent with a significant assault, according to a postmortem carried out by the state pathologist at the time, Prof John Harbison.
A jury of five women and four men returned a unanimous verdict of unlawful killing under the direction of the Dublin City Coroner Dr Brian Farrell.
“The cause of Brian Murphy’s death was head injuries and that is unequivocal. There is not doubt about that point,” Dr Farrell told the jury.
“I’m recommending a verdict of unlawful killing. You’ve heard the evidence of the assault. It seems Brian Murphy died as a result of head injuries as a result of an assault.”
Investigating officer Supt Declan Coburn told the court he went to the scene of the assault outside Club Annabel’s at 6.10am on August 31, 2000, and subsequently began a homicide investigation into the circumstances surrounding Brian Murphy’s violent death.
During questioning by counsel for the Murphy family, Remy Farrell, Supt Coburn told the inquest the “sustained assault” occurred between 2.30am and 3.00am when Mr Murphy was set upon by a group of men — possibly up to 10 men in two different groups.
One or two initial punches, which were “particularly violent”, knocked Brian Murphy to the ground, he told the court. These were followed by a substantial amount of kicking [for anything up to 30 seconds at least] to the upper part of Mr Murphy’s body.
Mr Murphy was essentially left to fend for himself during the attack in which “considerable force was applied with the much greater part of the violence being inflicted when he was lying defenceless on the ground,” he said.
The court heard Mr Murphy had a modest amount of alcohol in his blood at the time of the assault — 132 miligrams — the equivalent of about three pints.
More than 800 statements were taken during the course of the protracted investigation.
According to a statement by Jenny Hyland, read out in court yesterday, she had left the nightclub when she noticed about 15 males who were “acting very hostile towards each other”.
“I saw a young man stumble to the ground and by the colour of his shirt I knew it was Brian Murphy. I saw him fall back on the roadway and, as he tried to get himself into a sitting position, three or four fellows began kicking him repeatedly all over his body. When they stopped he was face down on the ground lying motionless.”
A statement by David Cox recounted how he saw a man take one step forward and punch Brian Murphy twice.
“They were vicious punches, one to the side of the face and one to the front of the mouth. I was shocked by the force of the punches. He hit him with a closed fist. I saw Brian Murphy lying on his back on the ground. I remember thinking he was defenceless. He had his hands by his side and I’m satisfied he wouldn’t have been able to get up off the ground. I saw several kicks land on his body.”
Another witness, Fiachra O’Brien, said: “I noticed that the guy on the ground was making no attempt to defend himself. It looked like he had been knocked cold by the running punch that hit him.”
In his report Prof Harbison concluded the deceased had received extensive facial injuries, in particular to the mouth, chin, right eye socket, lower left jaw and to the teeth, and that these injuries were more than likely the result of kicks from a hard object, although the possibility they were from blows could not be excluded.
The cause of death was swelling of the brain and inhalation of blood due to multiple facial injuries.
The coroner expressed his condolences to Mr Murphy’s parents, Denis and Mary, and to their daughter, Clare, and son, Robert.
“I want to say how sorry I am to hear about Brian’s death. I know there is no greater tragedy that can befall parents,” the coroner said.
Disagreement between experts over evidence
IN the 2004 trial, one man, Dermot Laide, was convicted of manslaughter and violent disorder, one of the accused was acquitted of all charges and two were convicted of violent disorder.
The manslaughter charge was later overturned on appeal and a retrial ordered.
But in April 2006 a nolle prosequi (no prosecution) was entered by the State in Laide’s case because of “ongoing evidential difficulties”.
This was primarily due to a difference of opinion between Professor John Harbison and Professor Marie Cassidy regarding the cause of Mr Murphy’s death.
Prof Harbison was not in a position to give evidence, due to ill health.
However, when provided with Prof Harbison’s postmortem report and with X-rays taken of Mr Murphy’s brain, Prof Cassidy agreed with his finding that Mr Murphy died primarily as a result of head and face injuries sustained in an assault.
The Dublin City Coroner then ordered the file on the death of Brian Murphy be sent back to the Director of Public Prosecution.
However, DPP said it would not be seeking further prosecutions.
Legal advice given advised that Prof Cassidy should not have access to Prof Harbison’s report to protect the integrity of the second trial, the court heard.
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