Camcorder footage shows a man who was stabbed to death by his cousin wielding the flick knife that was eventually used to kill him, the Central Criminal Court has heard today.
Heroin addict Shane Millea (aged 27), of Celbridge, Co Kildare, had been charged with the murder of his cousin Paul Harris (aged 33) at the Cannonbrook estate in Lucan, Co Dublin on December 2, 2010.
He pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to the manslaughter of Mr Harris last month, which was accepted by the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Giving evidence at a sentence hearing this morning, Detective Inspector Richard McDonald agreed with Mr Shane Murphy SC, for the State, that Millea made a statement to gardaí where he admitted stabbing Paul Harris in self defence after the deceased man attacked him with an axe handle.
He agreed with counsel for the defence, Mr Paul Burns SC, that Shane Millea and Paul Harris had been “messing” with a camcorder, recording videos, making a snowman and drinking in the days before the incident.
Det Insp McDonald agreed that a transcript of the camcorder footage records Shane Millea telling Paul Harris not to “come at” him with the flick knife he had brought him as a gift.
Millea told his cousin to “stop being so immature” and to put the knife back in its case, remarking: “If you tripped up I’d be dead”.
He agreed with Mr Burns that the transcript records Shane Millea saying: “You can’t trust Stretch not to cut you in half”.
The court heard that “Stretch” was a nickname for Paul Harris, who was six foot two inches in height.
Det Insp McDonald agreed that Shane Millea also said “I don’t like that look in your eyes man, drop the knife” after Paul Harris prodded Millea in the backside with the weapon.
He agreed that Millea also made a phone call to his mother shortly before the incident occurred, telling her that he was going to die and saying “here he comes” before the phone went dead.
Millea said in his statement to gardaí that he had been visiting his cousin Paul Harris when the deceased man became aggressive, picked up an axe and threatened him: “Get out or I’ll chop you up.”
The defendant said he then picked up the flick-knife he had given to his cousin the day before as a gift and backed out of the house. He said Mr Harris came towards him in the front garden and hit him on the right arm with the handle of the axe.
Millea said that he stabbed Paul Harris until he stopped attacking him. He then tried to resuscitate his cousin for approximately 30 minutes.
Det Insp McDonald agreed with Mr Murphy that Dublin Fire Brigade received a call from a “very agitated and very upset” Millea at 6:40pm on the evening of December 10 and issued him with instructions on how to perform CPR on the unconscious Paul Harris.
He agreed that when gardaí arrived at the scene, they saw Millea in the process of trying to resuscitate Mr Harris and noted an axe lying in snow in the front garden.
Det Insp McDonald agreed that Millea told gardaí: “I can’t believe I killed my cousin” and “I can’t believe I butchered my best mate, I’m still in shock.”
He agreed with Mr Murphy that a post mortem examination carried out by Professor Marie Cassidy found that Paul Harris suffered six stab wounds and that his death was due to bleeding caused by the severing of his femoral artery and injuries to his abdominal organs.
Det Insp McDonald agreed that Professor Cassidy found that wounds on the deceased man’s arms were defensive injuries.
In answer to a question by Mr Justice Carney on the veracity of Millea’s allegation that Paul Harris had advanced on him with in an axe, Det Insp McDonald said that gardaí had no evidence to counteract Millea’s version of events as there were no other eye-witnesses.
He said that Millea told gardaí that Paul Harris had struck him with the handle of the axe but not the head.
Det Insp McDonald said that father-of-one Millea has 25 previous convictions, including two previous convictions for the possession of knives.
He said that Paul Harris also had a previous conviction for the possession of knives, as well as convictions for robbery and criminal damage, and agreed with Mr Justice Carney that both Millea and Mr Harris had an interest in knives and using them.
Det Inp McDonald agreed with Mr Burns that Millea was a long time substance abuser and addict and had gone to get methadone on the day of the offence.
Mr Justice Paul Carney later asked to see the wooden-handled weapon up close and questioned why a person would give a flick knife a present.
In a Victim Impact Statement read aloud to the court, Paul Harris’ mother Rosemary Bond told the court that she had been living in a “fog of despair” since her son’s death, which had been a “crippling blow” to her family causing “dark feelings of immense pain” to “dull every breath”.
She said that her son had been a “bubbly” “understanding” and “compassionate” person who died a violent and brutal death at his home.
Ms Bond recounted how Paul had bought a bicycle for his niece as a Christmas gift and hidden it under his bed, but never got the chance to give it to her.
She said that she had suffered insomnia, nightmares, loss of weight and a “reliving” of her son’s injuries and pain in the aftermath of his death.
Ms Bond said that her family would never forgive Shane Millea and ended her statement by asking: “Victim Impact Statement; can words give justice to the loss?”
Mr Burns told the court that Paul Harris was a “mercurial” character and submitted evidence from the deceased man’s father John Harris, who wrote a letter outlining how his nephew Shane Millea was “quiet and introverted”, while his son Paul had a changeable personality and could quickly become aggressive for no reason.
Mr Burns told the court that the case was one of “self-defence using excessive force” where a young man was in fear for his life responsible for the death of his friend which had caused a deep rift within his own family.
Mr Justice Carney ordered that a transcript of today’s hearing be made up and remanded Millea in custody for sentencing on May 8 next.