Court hears of fatal stabbing that shocked Wexford
A man who was dying from stab wounds refused to say how he suffered the injuries when a garda asked for a 'dying declaration', the Central Criminal Court heard last week.
The jury at the trial of James Connors, aged 29, of Rosemount, Drinagh, were hearing the opening day of evidence. Mr Connors pleaded not guilty to murdering Jason Ryan, aged 27, at an apartment in Hollyville Heights in Wexford Town on January 25, 2012.
In opening the trial, Gerard Clarke, prosecuting, said it is the State's case that Mr Ryan died from puncture wounds to the torso.
Garda Leisha Fahey of Wexford Garda Station gave evidence that she arrived at the apartment in Hollyville Heights in the early hours of the morning on January 25, 2012. She agreed with Mr Clarke that she saw blood on the front door of the apartment and that she was let in by Mr Ryan's girlfriend.
Once inside, she saw Mr Ryan lying on a couch with puncture wounds to his torso. She added: 'He was extremely pale and was complaining about pain in the tops of his legs.' Garda Fahey said he did not have any wounds to the tops of his legs.
Garda Fahey also agreed with Michael Delaney, defending, that another garda who was present was concerned that Mr Ryan would die and asked him if he wanted to make a 'dying declaration' as to who had caused his injuries.
Mr Delaney said 'he refused to do so' and Garda Fahey agreed.
The jury was also shown a mini baseball bat implanted with metal studs that Garda Fahey said she recognised as having been seized at the scene by another garda.
Garda Padraig Hartigan of Wexford Garda Station told the court that he was on beat duty when he received a call to attend an alleged stabbing at an apartment at Hollyville Heights at about 12.30 a.m. on the same night.
Garda Hartigan said he was let in by Mr Ryan's girlfriend and he saw James Ryan on the couch. 'He was having difficulty breathing and he had a number of wounds to the chest area,' he said.
Defence counsel Michael Delaney told the jury that the defence and prosecution in the case had agreed to submit evidence of Mr James Connors's imprisonment at Wheatfield Prison in 2011. He told the jury that Mr Connors had been given temporary leave from Wheatfield Prison for Christmas 2011 and had been due to return to prison on December 28 but failed to do so.
The jury heard evidence from 29-year-old Samantha Hore. Speaking to prosecution counsel Gerard Clarke, Ms Hore said that she had dated Mr Connors on and off for ten years but they broke up for good in 2010.
After that she started going out with Jason Ryan and they lived together for about one year leading up to his death in January 2012.
Ms Hore said that she had received numerous phone calls from Mr Connors after they broke up and he had told her that 'if I ever moved on he would not be happy and he was going to get whoever it was.'
She said that on the day of January 24 Mr Ryan had been drinking with friends at their apartment before going out. He returned at about midnight and took off his runners.
The doorbell rang about 15 minutes later and she asked Mr Ryan to get it. She looked out a window of their first floor apartment and saw that it was James Connors. She heard the two men having a row but said she could not hear what was being said.
Mr Ryan came back into the apartment, she said, put his runners back on and then left. A few minutes later he returned to the apartment with stab wounds to his chest. She said he could not speak or see.
Ms Hore also gave evidence that she had previously seen James Connors about three weeks before Jason died. She said that on that occasion the two had started fighting and that Mr Connors stabbed Mr Ryan twice, but that the injuries were not serious enough for him to go to hospital.
Under cross examination by defence counsel Michael Delaney, Ms Hore agreed that she had failed to mention that when Mr Ryan left the apartment on the night of his death he was carrying a baton with metal studs in it and that he ran after Mr Connors. She said he had it for protection but she did not know why he needed protection.
She also agreed that when she spoke to gardai two hours after the incident she told them that she heard Mr Ryan say to Mr Connors: 'Go away you red bastard,' while the two of them were arguing at the front door.
Mr Delaney put it to Ms Hore that she was out for 'revenge' for her boyfriend's death and had deliberately omitted those details. He also put it to her that she had concocted the story about the stabbing three weeks prior to the incident that led to Mr Ryan's death.
He said: 'You are exaggerating the account of what you saw to prejudice Mr Connors.' He said that there may have been a fight between the two men but that the injuries Mr Ryan suffered were so insignificant that they subsequently went to a sweet shop to buy sweets rather than go to hospital or contact gardai. She denied making up the story, saying 'why would I lie about that?'
The court also heard evidence from neighbours living in Hollyville Heights who said they saw a man hiding in the bushes outside Ms Hore's and Mr Ryan's apartment in the minutes leading up to the argument between Mr Connors and Mr Ryan.
A witness described seeing a man being hit with a baton in the lead-up to the stabbing that left Jason Ryan dead.
Ms Catriona Purdy, a former neighbour of Mr Ryan, said she awoke shortly after midnight on January 25 when she heard a loud bang. She told prosecuting counsel Gerard Clarke that she looked out the window and saw two men.
'I saw a tall, well built guy standing there,' she said, 'He was waving a baton.'
Speaking to defence counsel Michael Delaney she agreed that a statement she gave to gardai the day after the incident was accurate. In that statement she said: 'The bigger of the two was hitting the smaller man with a baton.'
Neighbours John Purdy and Tina Grogan, who were also woken by a loud bang, told the jury they saw two men outside fighting. Speaking to Mr Clarke, they said the fight moved up a ramp to an area where they could not see and within about one minute the taller of the two men returned. Ms Purdy said that he was holding his side and limping.
The court also heard from Dr Karl Schmidt, a consultant surgeon at Wexford General Hospital. Dr Schmidt operated on James Ryan in the early hours of January 25 but was unable to save his life. He told the court he saw five stab wounds, one to the shoulder and four to the abdomen.
He said that Mr Ryan had lost a lot of blood and his blood pressure was dangerously low. His condition was so poor that he was sent immediately to the operating theatre.
He drained 1.8 litres of blood from Mr Ryan's chest and more than two litres from his abdomen. Dr Schmidt disagreed with Mr Delaney that three of the wounds were 'superficial'. He said three of the wounds went only as deep as the muscle but said he did not consider that to be superficial.
Connors told his friend to wipe the numbers and messages on his mobile phone moments before gardai arrested him, the Central Criminal Court heard on Thursday.
Speaking to prosecution counsel Gerard Clarke, witness Mary Connors said that she was picking Mr Connors up in the early hours of January 25 when gardai appeared.
'He [Mr Connors] had a phone that he threw and he told me to delete the numbers and messages,' she said.
Ms Connors said that she then drove home and later retrieved the phone from under the passenger seat of the car and did as Mr Connors had asked.
While giving her evidence, Ms Connors said that she is a distant relative of Mr Connors and knew him because his mother is a family friend. She said that the two of them had become friendly when he was on temporary release from prison in December 2011.
She said that on January 24, the day before Mr Ryan died, Mr Connors was with a group of people at a house across the street from her own home in Wexford. He called her and asked her to get him some alcohol so she went out to get it for him.
She brought the alcohol to him and returned home at about 8 or 9pm. A little later he called her again and said he was 'very drunk and needed a lift'.
She picked him up and brought him back to her house but she wanted to watch television and he told her to switch it off. 'He was very intoxicated and incoherent,' she said, 'he told me to put some music on and I told him he was upsetting me and I wanted him to leave.'
Mr Connors left and told her he would not come back. Some time after midnight, she received another call from Mr Connors. 'He said he had been jumped and that he was on John's Road in Wexford.' He wanted her to pick him up.
When she found him on John's Road she said his face was bleeding and she told him he needed to go to hospital, but he refused. She said he was still intoxicated but a little more coherent. They returned to her house and she washed his bloodstained clothes while he changed into clothes that he had previously left at her house.
She said she didn't want him to stay so she dropped him to his uncle's place which was close to her own home. A little later she received another call.
'He asked me to do one last thing for him and bring him to his other uncle's in Drinagh,' a few miles from Wexford town. She left him at his uncle's home in the early hours.
'After that I had one last phone call saying he was back in town and would I please just pick him up, that he was on curfew and wasn't supposed to be out.'
She went to pick him up again and that was when gardai arrived.
The court also heard from Danielle Kelly, a neighbour in Hollyville Heights where Mr Ryan was stabbed. Ms Kelly said that she was dating Mr Connors's cousin, Jim Connors, at the time. The accused had called to her home on the night of January 24 and then reappeared shortly after midnight.
She said he banged on their door and when she saw him he had blood on his face and blood was dripping from his head. He went into her apartment and then climbed on a table to get out a back window and jumped onto decking below. That was the last she saw of him. Around that time she heard sirens and became aware of gardai arriving at the apartment block.
Prosecution counsel Mr Gerard Clarke called Detective Garda Pat O'Brien of Wexford Garda Station on day five of the trial.
Detective Garda O'Brien agreed with counsel that on January 27, 2012 he conducted two interviews with Mr Connors at Wexford Garda Station.
The detective said that in the second interview Mr Connors gave an account of the altercation with Jason Ryan. He said that he had called to Mr Ryan's home at Hollyville Heights because the two of them had argued and he wanted to tell him to forget about it.
Det Garda O'Brien agreed that Mr Connors said they had exchanged words when Mr Connors called his ex-girlfriend Samantha Hore from prison and Mr Ryan answered the phone. 'I just wanted to tell him to forget about it,' he told Det Gda O'Brien during the interview.
Mr Clarke then called Detective Garda Dan O'Sullivan, who had interviewed Mr Connors later the same day at Wexford Garda Station.
During that interview Mr Connors told Det Garda O'Sullivan he called to Jason Ryan's home at Hollyville Heights on the night of January 24 and asked him to come down saying: 'I want a word with you.'
His statement to Garda O'Sullivan continued: 'He had a bat and a knife and he said what the f**k do you want? Once I saw the weapons I walked away up the road, up the ramp.'
Garda O'Sullivan asked if he had brought a knife with him and he answered no. He said the knife was tucked into the waistband of Mr Ryan's trousers. The garda agreed that Mr Connors then told him that he walked into a cul de sac and realised he could go no further.
The statement continued: 'I turned around and as soon as I turned Jay hit me on top of the head. I pulled the knife from his waist and stabbed him with it. He was about to hit me again when I grabbed the knife and stabbed him. He hit me another couple of times after that and then he walked away. I thought he was fine. He wasn't bleeding or anything.'
During the interview Mr Connors said he had little recollection of the events leading up to the fight with Mr Ryan. He said he had taken tablets and had been drinking spirits.
Garda O'Sullivan also agreed with Mr Clarke that Mr Connors spoke about the origins of his feud with Mr Ryan. Mr Connors said he had called his ex-girlfriend Samantha Hore from prison but Jason answered the phone. He said there was an argument and added that he called Ms Hore's number again 'because I knew ringing her would annoy Jay.'