A FATHER-OF-THREE has been cleared at the Central Criminal Court of murdering a cattle farmer in a row over a stray animal.
Daniel-Joseph ‘DJ’ Byrne, 39, had pleaded not guilty to murdering 49-year-old father Edward Dempsey on October 11, 2007.
Mr Dempsey died on that date, 10 months after being involved in a row with DJ Byrne at the Byrne farm on Hammer Lane, Borness, Co Laois.
DJ Byrne’s younger brother, Jason Byrne, 33, who had also been on trial for the murder, was acquitted on Wednesday. He too had denied the charge.
Jason had told the court that while he was present in the yard at the time of the row, he played no part in it, nor did he hit the farmer across the legs with the handle of a brush as he’d been accused of doing.
The brothers, who work together as builder-contractors, also have addresses side by side at Hammer Lane, Borness in Co Laois.
Eddie Dempsey, a substantial cattle farmer on the Laois/Offaly border, died in Portlaoise Hospital in October 2007.
The prosecution argued that the ultimate cause of his death was the blow to the head struck by DJ Byrne on December 18, 2006.
Extensive medical evidence in the case supported this argument, with medical experts saying the head injury was a “substantial” cause of death.
DJ Byrne admitted to the jury in his evidence that he hit Eddie Dempsey across the head with a wooden shovel handle but said he had been “purely defending” himself.
Mr Dempsey had arrived at the yard with his brother, John, to get back a heifer of theirs that had strayed onto the Byrne’s land.
Byrne described how John shouted at Eddie Dempsey and encouraged him to go into the yard saying he couldn’t be stopped.
He said the farmer had slammed the gate with his fists saying “I’m fucking going in there and no one’s going to fucking stop me”.
Mr Dempsey then pushed the gate in on top of him, knocking him backwards and into his brother, Jason.
Byrne said Mr Dempsey shouted at them that they were “bastards” and “scum”, and was towering over him with his fists closed. He also recalled the farmer saying there was “bad, dirty breeding” in him, a comment he took to refer to his daughter who has Down’s syndrome.
Byrne said he hit the farmer with a shovel handle as he continued to slip backwards, and Eddie Dempsey continued to come towards him.
He said Eddie fell to the ground in a sitting position, and was then dragged out of the yard by John.
The jury reached its decision on DJ Byrne just after 4pm yesterday after almost 11 hours of deliberations.
His wife, Geraldine Byrne, broke down in tears as the verdict was read out.
Neither family wished to comment afterwards but a spokesperson for the Dempsey family said they were very distressed.