Wicklow man pleads guilty to manslaughter

A Wicklow man has pleaded guilty to manslaughter ten days after a jury failed to reach a verdict in his murder trial at the Central Criminal Court.

A Wicklow man has pleaded guilty to manslaughter ten days after a jury failed to reach a verdict in his murder trial at the Central Criminal Court.

Richard O’Carroll (aged 33) with addresses at Greenpark Road, Bray, Co Wicklow and Cois Sleibhe, Southern Cross Road, Bray admitted to the manslaughter of Mr Keith Fortune (aged 27) of Hazelwood Upper, Dargle Road Bray in the early hours of May 2, 1999 at the William Dargan Inn, Bray.

Mr O’Carroll’s guilty plea was accepted by the State before Mr Justice Paul Carney in the Central Criminal Court.

Mr Justice Carney directed the trial judge, Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne, to sentence the accused man. Judge Dunne fixed the date for sentencing for February 21.

On January 20 last, a jury of seven men and five women deliberated for nine hours and 18 minutes but were unable to reach a decision. Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne said she was left with no other option but to discharge the jury from their duty.

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.

During the nine-day trial the jury heard the accused O’Carroll told gardaí when he was arrested he said he didn’t "intend to stab" the deceased allegedly saying, "It was him or me".

"Keith said something, a smart remark," O’Carroll allegedly told gardaí. "I exchanged some words with him. Then I saw the knife come out of his sleeve. I quickly head-butted him. A scuffle followed and we wrestled around with the knife and Keith got stabbed."

O’Carroll also allegedly told gardaí: "I took the knife from Keith Fortune and we were still struggling. I can’t remember what happened the knife. Someone could have taken it off me."

The former partner of the accused man, Ms Stephanie Carroll told the jury the deceased man allegedly slagged Mr O’Carroll about their Down’s Syndrome baby daughter in the pub on the night in question.

The court heard that Richard O’Carroll had an eight-month baby daughter with Down’s Syndrome at the time of killing.

The accused man’s former partner told the jury Mr Fortune asked him "how the mongo was" referring to their baby daughter on the night of the fatal stabbing.

Ms Carroll told the jury that shortly after midnight the deceased man "nodded to Richie to go outside" the pub. Ms Carroll understood this to mean that the deceased man wanted to fight with her partner.

Ms Carroll said the accused man followed Mr Fortune outside after a few minutes.

"I could see them fighting through the glass door of the pub," she told the jury.

When Ms Carroll went outside to the fight she managed successfully to stop the fight, pulling the two men apart from each other.

Mr Fortune, she said, put his hand to his stomach. As Ms Carroll turned around to her former partner she saw him holding a knife in his left hand. Mr O’Carroll, she said, was saying: "Oh my god, Oh my god".

"I asked Richie what the f**k did you do that for and he said, ‘I don’t know’," Ms Carroll said.

Ms Justice Dunne deemed two sisters, Jacqueline and Loretta Smith, to be hostile witnesses. Neither could "remember anything" of the night of the fatal stabbing although both gave detailed statements to gardaí in May 1999. Both sisters told gardaí in 1999 that they were with the deceased man as he lay dying in the William Dargan Inn almost six years ago.

Former State Pathologist, Professor John Harbison told the jury Mr Fortune’s death was a result of "shock and haemorrage due to the accumulation of blood in the chest and abdomen due to stab wounds to the heart, left lung and liver".

Prof Harbison said the deceased man was stabbed four times in the chest with one wound having "multiple thrusts".

"The person wielding the knife stabbed then withdrew the knife but not completely and then stabbed again. This indicated a close combat," Prof Harbison said.

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