A 22-year-old Dublin man has been jailed for life after a jury at the Central Criminal Court found him guilty of murdering another man during a drugs “rip” in Walkinstown in December 2007.
After just under six hours of deliberations, an emotional jury found Warren Graham guilty of murdering Paul Keegan (aged 42), in a laneway behind Cherryfield Road.
Several of the six men and six women broke down in tears and one juror had to leave the courtroom sobbing as the majority verdict of 10 to 2 was read out. Graham showed no reaction.
They also found the accused, of Shancastle Lawn, Clondalkin, guilty of a second charge of having an imitation firearm with intention to cause robbery on the same date, December 10, 2007.
The firearm was a Mac II Ingram 6mm air gun, designed to look like a small Uzi sub-machine gun. Their verdict on this charge was unanimous.
During the five-day trial, the jury heard that Graham admitted to gardaí he knifed Mr Keegan in the back. But he said he was acting in defence of his friend who was getting “the head boxed off him” by the deceased.
“I panicked, I had the knife and I just stabbed him...I didn't mean to kill him...I just wanted to get him off (my friend),” he said.
He said he only remembered stabbing the deceased twice. But the jury heard Mr Keegan sustained four stab wounds, the deepest of which was 19cm.
His heart and spleen were punctured by the 15cm long blade.
After the accused handed himself into Crumlin garda station a week after the killing, he told gardaí he only became involved in the drugs rip the night before it occurred, because he was in a lot of debt.
He was instructed by a third party to go to the lane behind Cherryfield Road in Walkinstown with his friend, and pretend they had 50 kilos of hash in the boot of their car for two men; the deceased
and his friend Thomas Maher.
The accused and his friend were given a carving knife and the imitation firearm and told to use them to intimidate the men and get the money for the drugs.
But the planned rip went badly wrong after Mr Maher ran from the scene once the weapons were produced. The accused gave chase, while Mr Keegan tried to wrestle the firearm away from his friend.
Mr Graham said he heard his friend scream for help, and after returning to the scene saw the two men fighting and covered in blood.
His friend wouldn't stop screaming: “Jab him, jab him” he said.
“I took this to mean stab him, so I did. In the back” he admitted to investigating detectives.
“I panicked, I had the knife and I just stabbed him...I didn't mean to kill him...I just wanted to get him off (my friend).”
He said Mr Keegan screamed and fell to the ground after he stabbed him “one last time” and then he and his friend “tore off” and fled the scene.
When he found out afterwards that Mr Keegan had died, he said he felt like crying.
The prosecution had argued that Mr Graham was guilty of murder because the force he used was “grossly disproportionate” and his main intention had been to escape, and not rescue his friend.
Counsel for the prosecution, Ms Una Ni Raffertaigh BL, told the jury that the accused could not claim defence of his friend, because Mr Keegan was “not presenting such a risk as to make it necessary to stick a knife in him four times.”
Mr Graham's defence lawyer, Ms Isobel Kennedy BL had argued that Mr Graham believed it was necessary to do what he did, faced as he was with an “extremely large” man.
Mr Keegan was 6 foot tall and described during the trial as being very well built and powerful. Mr Graham is 5 foot 5 in height and of slight build.
After the verdict was read out, the court heard that Graham had expressed sorrow and remorse to gardaí in interviews. He had 13 previous convictions, including for assault causing harm, road traffic and public order offences.
His parents were separated and his mother, four sisters and girlfriend of five years were present throughout the trial.
Graham broke down and cried while a victim impact statement was read out on behalf of Paul Keegan’s sister.
Deborah Cantwell said she threw the phone across the room when she got the call to say her eldest sibling was dead. She didn't sleep or eat properly for weeks afterwards.
She said she feels like her "insides are shaking" all the time and she hasn't been able to return to work since.
Ms Cantwell said she will never know the pain her brother was in before he died and added that she couldn’t get him out of her head.
Ms Cantwell said it was heartbreaking to see her parents suffering. Her father's brain cancer came back after his son died and he too passed away in April last year.
She said her brother had a 19-year-old son when he was killed.
“He's like a lost soul now. He was very close to his dad and I don't think he'll ever be the same,” she said. “I will never get over what happened,” she said.