Jury in Tralee murder case hears final arguments

The jury in the trial of a man accused of murder after an argument over a game of backgammon will begin their deliberations tomorrow at the Central Criminal Court.

Jury in Tralee murder case hears final arguments

The jury in the trial of a man accused of murder after an argument over a game of backgammon will begin their deliberations tomorrow at the Central Criminal Court.

Badri Khvedelidze (aged 33), has pleaded not guilty to the murder of fellow Georgian George Tkeshelashvili on October 15, 2005 at Westward Court in Tralee, Co Kerry.

In summing up the prosecution case, Tim O'Leary SC told Justice Isobel Kennedy and the jury that they had been given a credible account of the events leading to Mr Tkeshelashvili's death by chief witness Givi Verdzeuli.

Mr Verdzeuli told the court that he saw the accused man arguing with Mr Tkeshelashvili and that Mr Tkeshelashvili insulted Mr Khvedelidze's mother.

He then saw the accused punch the other man in the chest and when he withdrew his hand he saw blood gushing out and then saw a knife in Mr Khvedelidze's hand.

Mr Verdzeuli said he later realised that the argument had begun over a game of backgammon when he saw the board and a table overturned in a room where the two men had been playing.

Counsel for the defence Kerida Naidoo SC said that Mr Verdzeuli is an unreliable witness. He said the 66-year-old first told gardaí that he did not see the incident. The following day he changed his story, giving the account that the prosecution is now claiming is the truth.

He also pointed out that Mr Verdzeuli had been deported to Georgia in 2010, having failed to secure asylum in Ireland and that he asked for assurances from gardaí that he would not be deported again when he returned to give evidence. Mr Verdzeuli had denied this while giving evidence to the court but it was later confirmed by a translator who gave evidence at the trial.

Numerous garda witnesses were called to confirm that they sought to have the deportation order lifted to allow the witness return to Ireland to give evidence.

"Is he a credible witness?" asked Mr Naidoo. "Go back to the beginning. He told the gardaí that he did not see anything and the prosecution wants us to ignore that. Are you satisfied to convict somebody of murder on his word alone?"

Mr Naidoo said that another witness, Sow Unmi, a 45-year-old from Nigeria, who saw someone leaving the scene of the stabbing carrying a knife, failed to identify Mr Khvedelidze when presented with his photograph by gardaí.

He said this was direct evidence that Mr Khvedelidze was not the person who carried out the stabbing and could not be ignored by the jury.

When the jury begin deliberations, Justice Isobel Kennedy said they will be free to return with a verdict of murder, manslaughter or not guilty of any offence.

Justice Kennedy will conclude her summary Tuesday November 3.

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