Naas murder trial witness says victim Jojo Dunne was hit twice with baseball bat, Central Criminal Court hears

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Naas murder trial witness says victim Jojo Dunne was hit twice with baseball bat, Central Criminal Court hears

Central Criminal Court

A 20-year-old man was hit twice in the head with a baseball bat, including once while he was prone on the ground, a murder trial witness has told the Central Criminal Court.

However, witness Alannah Piercy disagreed with counsel for the accused man Zoltan Almasi that her evidence of a second strike was "completely made up".

Ms Piercy was today, Wednesday, giving evidence in the trial of Mr Almasi, a Serbian-born man living in Kildare, who is accused of murdering Joseph 'Jo Jo' Dunne in Kildare in May 2014.

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.

Ms Piercy told Ms Caroline Biggs SC, prosecuting, that she saw a man strike Mr Dunne and that she heard a "shatter" when Mr Dunne was struck with the bat on the back-left of his head.

The witness said that she approached Mr Dunne as he lay on the ground after the attack but that the deceased could not talk and only "mumble", before people from a nearby restaurant came on the scene.  

"I knew he was dead, I knew he killed him," a tearful Ms Piercy told counsel.

Ms Piercy said that she could not describe the male who hit Mr Dunne but said that the bat was "black with a blue top".

The incident happened after a group of young people met up at the Abbey Bridge in Naas on the night, before moving towards Harbour View in the town.

The court has heard that Mr Dunne either "jostled" or "punched" a van belonging to Mr Almasi who then emerged from his home and chased Mr Dunne with a baseball bat shortly after 10.15pm.

The witness said she was on the road at Harbour View when the incident occurred and she could see that 'Jo Jo' had been struck at the side of the head, towards the left side of his skull.
 

The late Jojo Dunne


Defending barrister Mr Barra McGrory QC, in cross-examination, asked the witness if she saw the male chase Mr Dunne with a raised bat, to which the witness agreed.

Ms Piercy told Mr McGrory that after a first strike to the head of Mr Dunne, the pursuing male then struck a prone Mr Dunne for the second time in the "exact same place" on the side of the head.

The witness said that she was between two cars on the road at the time and that she was "in shock" at what she witnessed.

Mr McGrory asked Ms Piercy if she would agree she gave a different account to gardaí when giving her statement on May 18, 2014, when she described only one "wallop at the back of the head and neck area" of Mr Dunne. The witness did not reply.

Mr McGrory said that Ms Piercy had also described a different type of strike to the head when giving her evidence to the jury today, Wednesday, June 2, where she described more of a "swiping", lateral motion, regarding the strike to the head.

After an emotional Ms Piercy disagreed with this contention, the court took a 10-minute break.

When the court resumed, Mr McGrory said that in her statement to gardaí Ms Piercy said that she could not see Mr Dunne on the ground and only described one strike to the deceased, to which the witness agreed.  

Counsel put it to Ms Piercy that she "added" a second strike and suggested to the witness that the reason for this was to have the same account as other witnesses she was friendly with.

A tearful Ms Piercy could not respond and Mr McGrory told Mr Justice Michael White that the witness was "upset".

Counsel asked the witness if she was drinking on the night of May 2016 and was told by Ms Piercy that she was "not a drinker".

Mr McGrory said that the witness' evidence of a second strike was "completely made up", to which Ms Piercy said: "I know what I saw."

In re-examination, Ms Biggs put it to the witness that she told the truth to gardaí to the best of her ability and had told them that a jeep had obscured her view at the moment Mr Dunne fell to the ground, to which the witness agreed.

Another witness, Ms Michaela Walker, told Ms Biggs that she was also present on the night and arrived at the bridge between 7.45-50pm, where the others were drinking.

Ms Walker said that she had been on her way to her Friday night youth club when she met the group and that Mr Dunne had been "polite and friendly".

Mr Dunne and Ms Walker had gone for a walk and Mr Dunne had "leaned in for a kiss" but she leaned away. Ms Walker said that she and Mr Dunne then went back to the group where the boys were smashing glasses and drinking.

Ms Walker said she saw Mr Dunne pick up the top of a broken bottle and put it in his pocket before she went to McDonald's with another friend and returned home for 10.30pm.

The trial in front of a jury of four women and seven men continues tomorrow, Thursday, and is expected to last four weeks.

Previous evidence

On Monday, witness Michael 'Mikey' McDonagh also gave evidence in the trial when the jury were shown CCTV street footage of Mr Almasi raising his arm as he chased Mr Dunne before they are both 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 Biggs 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.

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