Central Criminal Court, Dublin
A Kildare murder trial witness described how he placed his jacket under the head of his best friend as blood came from his ears and mouth after he was struck with a baseball bat. The witness, who later became upset during cross-examination, had to leave the trial at the Central Criminal Court for a time yesterday, Monday, May 31.
Michael ‘Mikey’ McDonagh was giving evidence today in the trial of Zoltan Almasi, who is accused of murdering Joseph ‘Jojo’ Dunne in Kildare seven years ago.
Mr Almasi (49) of Harbour View, Naas, has pleaded not guilty at the Central Criminal Court to the murder of Mr Dunne but guilty to his manslaughter on the night of May 16, 2014, at Harbour View, Naas.
The trial of Mr Almasi opened last Wednesday, May 26. The jury was told that there have already been two trials in the case.
On Monday, the jury were shown CCTV street footage of Mr Almasi raising his arm as he chased Mr Dunne before they both are obscured by trees at Harbour View. The accused can be seen on CCTV returning with what appears to be a bat but Mr Dunne does not reappear.
Mr McDonagh told Ms Caroline Biggs SC, prosecuting, that Mr Dunne and another friend, Mr Gavin Breen, had travelled from Kildare town on the night to meet three girls and had brought a box of Budweiser and a bottle of rum with them.
The witness said that Mr Dunne was his best friend and that he had known him since childhood. He said they were having “a laugh and a buzz” drinking at a bridge in the town.
Mr McDonagh said he did not drink on the night and sensed a change in mood of Mr Dunne after one of the girls left their group.
The witness told counsel that Mr Dunne was drunk on the night and that he was “shouting and singing” on the way back to get a bus home before he challenged another, ‘big, tall hairy’ man to a fight.
The man kept on walking and, according to the witness, Mr Dunne ‘jostled’ or ‘gave a box’ to a van and a man came running out of the house with a baseball bat in his right hand.
The witness said that the man was shouting “who hit my van?”
Mr McDonagh said that he then ran as he was in ‘fear of his life’ and scaled a flat-complex wall in case the male was pursuing him.
The witness told Ms Biggs that Mr Almasi was chasing Mr Dunne on the street when the bat struck Mr Dunne on the back of the head. He told Ms Biggs that he saw the man strike a single, downward blow to the back of Mr Dunne’s head and then he went to ground.
Mr McDonagh told Ms Biggs that he believed that Mr Dunne had been struck twice but said that he could only see the deceased being struck once with the bat. Mr McDonagh described the male as “forty-ish, baldy-headed, stocky and smallish.”
“I saw Jojo on the ground with blood coming out of his ears and mouth and I put my jacket under his head,” said the witness, who added that people from a nearby restaurant then arrived and performed CPR on Mr Dunne for 20 minutes.
Gardaí then arrived on the scene and Mr McDonagh made a statement to gardaí at Naas Garda Station that night.
Mr Barra McGrory QC, defending Mr Almasi, put it to the witness that in his evidence he said he only saw one strike of the baseball but had said he believed Mr Dunne had been struck twice.
Mr McGrory put it to Mr McDonagh that he had been in conversation with others involved in the case, which Mr McDonagh denied.
“Where did ‘twice’ come from then? Talking to other people?” said Mr McGrory.
Mr McDonagh agreed he had been talking to others and began crying before he left the court saying he did not wish to return.
Mr Justice Michael White suggested a 10-minute break in evidence before Mr McDonagh returned to court. Mr McGrory then put it to the witness that, on the night, Mr Dunne was drunk and ‘spoiling for a fight’, to which the witness agreed.
The barrister said that CCTV shows the ‘big hairy man’ make it to the door of his house but turn around to look down the street because, counsel said, he had heard Mr Dunne punch a vehicle.
A second statement to gardaí by Mr McDonagh on May 19, 2014, included the altercation with the ‘big hairy’ male but this had been left out of the original statement by Mr McDonagh, said counsel.
The witness agreed he had left it out of the original statement but said that his head was ‘fried’ at the time.
In his second statement to gardaí, Mr McDonagh said that “Jojo was locked drunk and in a bad mood”, something that was also deliberately left out of his first statement, said Mr McGrory, to which the witness agreed.
Counsel said that the witness also told gardaí that Mr Dunne hit the van a ‘box’ but in his evidence to prosecution counsel, described it only as a ‘jostle’, to which the witness replied that he didn’t know if it was both.
The trial before Mr Justice Michael White continues today, Tuesday, and is expected to last for four weeks.
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