Jury retires in stabbing trial

A jury has retired to consider a verdict in the trial of a 21-year-old Limerick man accused of stabbing a man to death in a fight outside a pub in the Southill area of the city in June 1999.

A jury has retired to consider a verdict in the trial of a 21-year-old Limerick man accused of stabbing a man to death in a fight outside a pub in the Southill area of the city in June 1999.

Christopher O'Callaghan, aged 21, of O'Malley Park, Southill, Limerick has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Michael Fitzpatrick, aged 19, of Yeats Avenue, Kincora Park, Southill outside the Olympic Arms pub on Roxboro Road on the night of June 25 1999.

Michael Fitzpatrick died from multiple stab wounds to his body.

The Central Criminal Court trial heard closing speeches from prosecution and defence barristers today after eight days of prosecution evidence.

In the course of his closing speech, the defence counsel, Mr Brendan Nix SC alleged that Mr John Devane, a solicitor with what the court heard was "an extensive criminal practice" in Limerick city, advised his client to lie to gardai. Mr Devane is no longer acting for O’Callaghan in the case.

Two detective gardai have told the trial that Christopher O’Callaghan said his solicitor at the time, Mr John Devane, had advised him to answer "I can’t remember but if I do I’ll tell you" to questions put to him in interviews with gardai.

A number of replies to the questions have been called as prosecution evidence against O’Callaghan.

In his charge to the jury, Mr Justice Kevin O’Higgins said that in his 35 years as a defence lawyer and judge he had never heard of such advice being given. It was "bad advice", the judge said.

During his interview with gardai, O’Callaghan was asked, "What did you do with the knife"? He first replied, " I can’t remember, but if I can, I’ll tell you". Later, when asked the question again, he replied, "I can’t remember where I threw it."

Mr Nix SC said the advice from the solicitor, "a professional man, an officer of the court", was "incredible, stupid, outrageous and bad".

He noted that O’Callaghan arrived voluntarily at Roxborough garda station on July 1st 1999 with his mother, his then solicitor Mr Devane and Alderman Michael Kelly and his brother Anthony Kelly.

"Having arrived at the garda station at the age of 18 only by some days, to be arrested for the first time on the most serious charge in the book, his solicitor tells him to tell lies and to set up the lie, almost as if he had amnesia", Mr Nix alleged.

"I can’t get over it, why he was told by a seasoned criminal lawyer to go into the gardai and tell lies, which in all probability have him where he is today."

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