On day eight of the trial of Wayne O'Donoghue who denies murdering eleven-year-old Robert Holohan, Dr Jack Crane, pathologist for Northern Ireland was called by the defence today.
He expressed the view that: “the arm lock episode may have resulted in the demise of this young boy.”
In the context of Wayne O’Donoghue’s account of catching the child in a head lock first and then putting his hand to the boy’s throat afterwards, Dr Crane said: “When this was done to this poor chap he may have been in the process of dying.”
The case was delayed today from 10.30 a.m. to 2.30 p.m. because Dr Crane’s flight from Belfast to Cork was delayed and then had to divert to Farranfore, County Kerry, because of fog. His evidence concluded within an hour.
In his direct evidence, Dr Crane said: “The force applied to the neck was not particularly severe and was not particularly prolonged.”
Blaise O’Carroll SC asked the pathologist if there were any of the classical signs of someone trying to defend themselves.
He said: “There were no apparent external injuries to the neck that you might find if the victim was trying to remove the assailant’s hands.”
Commenting on injuries to Robert Holohan’s mouth, that Dr Marie Cassidy said could have been attributed to a hand over the boy’s mouth or a blow to the mouth, Dr Crane described the injuries as trivial.
“I do not think you can attribute any significance to them. You would be speculating.” Dr Cassidy referred to rib injuries consistent with the possibility of someone sitting astride the boy’s chest.
Dr Crane commented: “The injuries she describes to the chest would not be injuries I would expect to find if an assailant was kneeling on this boy’s chest.”
Dr Cassidy found pin-point haemorrhages on the body which she said could have resulted from 15 to 30 seconds of neck compression.
Dr Crane said there was no scientific basis for this and added: “We do not know how long it takes for these haemorrhages to occur. They can occur within seconds.”
Cross-examined by Shane Murphy SC for the prosecution, Dr Crane agreed that there were definite signs of asphyxia.
Mr Murphy also suggested to Dr Crane that he did not examine the body of Robert Holohan and he was only drawing conclusions based on her findings. Dr Crane said Dr Cassidy was drawing her conclusions from her findings and so was he.
Mr Murphy said: “I have to suggest that the version of events put forward by Wayne O’Donoghue does not fully explain all the injuries.”
Mr Crane said a pathologist’s report could not confirm how all injuries were caused.