Wicklow murder trial reaches summing up stage

A jury in the trial of a Wicklow man accused of murder was told the "only conclusion" to be reached was one of murder at the Central Criminal court today.

A jury in the trial of a Wicklow man accused of murder was told the "only conclusion" to be reached was one of murder at the Central Criminal court today.

Prosecuting counsel Mr Barry Hickson SC told the jury in his closing speech that "the fatal stabbing of Keith Fortune was in fact murder".

Richard O’Carroll (aged 33) with addresses at Greenpark Road, Bray, Co Wicklow and Cois Sleibhe, Southern Cross Road, Bray has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Keith Fortune (aged 27) of Hazelwood Upper, Dargle Road, Bray.

Mr Fortune allegedly died as a result of an incident at the "William Dargan Inn", Goldsmith Terrace, on Quinsboro Road in Bray in the early hours of May 2, 1999. He was in the company of family celebrating the christening of a child earlier that day.

Mr Hickson SC said that there was an attempt made during the trial to "blacken" the deceased's character with references to him being barred from the pub in which the fatal incident occurred.

"Maybe he was no angel," Mr Hickson SC said, but "other witnesses said he was a grand fella".

Addressing the jury, Mr Hickson SC said there were "differences" between the many State witnesses. "Some couldn’t remember, some could partially remember and one witness, Mr Paddy O'Connor, didn’t appear at all", Mr Hickson SC said.

The prosecutor went on to say to the jury that "there is an apparent contradiction in the State witnesses".

Mr Hickson SC made reference to Mr Garrreth O’Brien, a State witness who told the court a different version of events to what he told the gardaí almost six years ago in his statement.

The court heard that in the days after the fatal incident, Mr O’Brien told the gardaí that he saw the deceased in the pub but didn’t speak to him. But last week he told the jury that the deceased produced a knife to cut cannabis after they smoked a joint together in the hours before the fatal stabbing.

"This evidence now presents Keith Fortune with a knife and this is the first time we heard this, nearly six years later," Mr Hickson SC told the jury. Nobody saw Keith Fortune with a knife, Mr Hickson said, "except Garreth O’Brien with his new evidence".

Defence barrister, Mr Paul Ramsey SC told the jury in his closing speech that the deceased "took exception to Richard O'Carroll and mocked his handicapped child".

"We say it was Keith Fortune that beckoned the accused over and it was Keith Fortune that was the moving force that night," Mr Ramsey SC said.

The defence barrister said it was "clear from the evidence" that the question of self defence arises in this case.

Richard O'Carroll "did not engineer the situation, the deceased did", Mr Ramsey SC said. The accused man, Mr Ramsey SC said, has a child with Down’s Syndrome. It was alleged during the trial that the deceased man said, "you’re the guy with the mongo" to Mr O’Carroll in the William Dargan Inn.

Addressing the jury, Mr Ramsey SC asked the seven men and five women what would happen if they were the parent of a handicapped child and heard "that kind of a remark". "Might that have an impact," Mr Ramsey SC asked the jury.

In conclusion, Mr Ramsey said Mr O’Carroll "is not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter".

Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne will begin her address to the jury tomorrow at the Central Criminal Court.

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