The teenage murderer of student Cameron Blair will be sentenced later this month.
The boy, who cannot be named because he is a minor, appeared at the Central Criminal Court yesterday for his sentence hearing, having pleaded guilty last month to murdering Mr Blair on Bandon Rd on January 16. However, sentencing was deferred until April following emotional victim impact statements from Cameron's family.
Mr Blair was a native of Ballinascarthy in west Cork and a second-year biochemistry student at Cork Institute of Technology.
He died at Cork University Hospital on January 16 after being stabbed in the neck while attending a student party at a house in Cork city.
Three victim impact statements were read to the court by Mr Blair’s mother, father, and younger brother yesterday.
Cameron’s mother Kathy Blair said that no parent expects to bury their child and called it “unnatural”.
She said it was something she would never come to terms with. Mrs Blair said she received a call on the night of January 16 to say that her son had been stabbed in the neck, a call that “has been described as every parent’s worse nightmare”.
She added: “Cameron’s murder has shattered our lives. My heart aches every day for the loss of my son. The loneliness can sometimes be overwhelming. Often when I am alone in the house I scream at the injustice of this. How could someone so cruelly take the life of our beautiful boy? Why has this happened to our family? We are not bad people.
“When I go into his bedroom I cry at the sight of his empty bed, the unfinished book on his locker, phone credit, and a voucher on his table — Christmas presents that he never got to use.
“Since Cameron’s untimely and senseless death I am no longer living. I simply exist. I cannot think about the future, it is too painful. The price of immense love is unbearable grief when that person is taken from you. We will be paying that price for the rest of our lives.”
The victim’s father, Noel Blair, said the ripple effect of his son’s murder had been felt far and wide.
“The death of your child is described as the ultimate grief. Unfortunately, I now know this to be true,” he said.
“Cameron was adored by us. The emptiness that is now in our lives is horrendous. His name will light up on my phone no more. His place at the table is vacant. I will never see his smile again. My darling son is gone forever.”
The deceased’s younger brother, Alan, also read a statement, saying: “When I go to my brother’s grave I stare in disbelief at his name on the plaque. How can Cameron be dead? It doesn’t seem real. He had so much to live for. I had so much to ask him and get his advice on.”
Mr Blair told his friend “don’t worry lad, I don’t want to be fighting” moments after the teenager plunged a knife into his neck, the Central Criminal Court heard yesterday.
The 20-year-old, who was acting as a “peacemaker” outside a house party in Cork city, was not aware that he had been stabbed.
The court also heard that Cameron had “extended the hand of friendship” to his murderer earlier in the night when he suggested the teenager and his friends be allowed come into the party. Cameron had told them they were “sound”, the hearing was told.
In a letter of apology to the Blair family, the now 17-year-old boy who killed him wrote: “Cameron was nothing than nice to me on the night, he did nothing wrong to me. It was never my intention for this to happen.”
At the sentence hearing, Detective Garda Martin Canny, of Togher Garda Station, summarised the facts of the case.
Describing Mr Blair for the court, Det Garda Canny told prosecuting counsel, Anne Rowland SC, that he had been a keen sportsman and played rugby with Bandon Rugby Football Club.
He also had a black belt in karate and was very popular in his wide circle of friends, he said, adding that he possessed leadership qualities and was thought of in very high esteem. He was also a very well-rounded and solid young man with an infectious personality, who drew people to him and was always smiling, said Det Garda Canny.
Mr Justice Paul McDermott asked the deceased’s family if they had a photo of Mr Blair and a large framed picture of the deceased was handed up to the court.
Outlining the events that led up to the fatal stabbing, Det Canny said Mr Blair had worked a half-day in his father’s engineering business in Bandon on the morning of January 16 before he picked up a few of his friends and drove to Cork city.
At 4.45pm, Mr Blair and his friends arrived at his student residence in Edenhall in Bishopstown, where they had a few drinks. Around 6pm, they all went to a house party at Bandon Rd, which was occupied by a number of students.
The accused and his two teenage friends met up with a drunk homeless man on the evening and they were walking with him past the house on Bandon Rd when it became apparent to them that there was a house party on inside, said Det Canny.
Mr Blair and his friend were monitoring who was coming in and out of the house party and had responsibility for letting people in or turning them away, said Det Gda Canny. The homeless man was banging on the door and was asked to go away but persisted to push on the door.
The accused and his two friends started to remonstrate with the students in the house and Mr Blair suggested to his friends that the three teenagers be allowed come into the party, said the witness.
The students were not happy but Mr Blair told them they were “sound” and allowed the three boys come into the house party.
At one point in the night, the three teenagers went into the kitchen and armed themselves with knives, said Det Canny, adding that the accused had armed himself with a very large kitchen knife and put it down his trousers.
At this point, some of the students were concerned that the three teenagers were becoming intoxicated and getting loud, he said.
At around 9pm, the accused asked one of Mr Blair’s friends if he could go to the off-licence with him to buy some alcohol. As they were walking back from the off-licence, the defendant told the student that he had a knife on him, said the witness.
When the accused arrived back at the house, his two friends were outside along with a number of other people.
“Cameron was one of the people holding fort and blocking people from coming back in,” said Det Canny, adding that Mr Blair was described by witnesses as acting as a shield at the door.
The youngest of the three teenagers was trying to push his way back into the house and produced a knife, said the detective.
One of the student’s in the house described Mr Blair acting as a peacemaker by trying to control the situation. A number of students inside the house made calls to gardaí looking for help. At one point, one of the women in the house went outside and got in between the two groups to try to calm the situation down.
However, the smallest of the three teenagers hit her with his closed fist to the side of the face and she stumbled, he said.
The detective said that the accused was visible on CCTV footage wielding a knife across the road around 9.17pm and “tapping” the knife off the back of his leg at various times.
He then walked back towards the house and lunged forward in a downward motion and stabbed Mr Blair once in the neck, he said. The teenager then ran away from the scene with the knife in hand before dumping it in a nearby field, along with a pair of gloves he had been wearing.
The witness said Mr Blair did not initially realise that he had been stabbed before he stumbled and lost consciousness. Paramedics attempted to resuscitate him at the scene before he was brought to CUH. He was declared dead at 10.20pm that night. The cause of death was a single stab wound to the neck.
The knife used to murder Mr Blair was produced to the court and measured 21cm in length. The accused was quickly identified on social media and visited by gardaí the following day.
Traces of blood were found on the accused’s jacket as well as DNA belonging to the deceased. The teenager has no previous convictions, the court heard.
Defence counsel Brendan Grehan SC said a few worlds from different social circles had collided on the night. However, Mr Blair had appeared to be friends with everybody and had acted in a non-aggressive way, he said.
Under cross-examination, Det Canny agreed with Mr Grehan that his client and his two friends had seemed to develop a paranoia as to whether somebody else had a knife at the party. The witness further agreed that the accused had “launched himself forward” in a split second and, in an incredibly impulsive action, had caused the most appalling consequence, bringing about the death of Mr Blair.
In cross-examination, Det Canny told Mr Grehan that Mr Blair’s last words to his friend were “don’t worry lad, I don’t want to be fighting” before he smiled and closed his eyes.
The detective agreed with the defence counsel that the knife had gone in a downward thrust into Mr Blair’s neck and then into his lung.
A psychological assessment and probation report was made available to the court.
The lawyer said his client had acted in a totally impetuous way which was absolutely uncalled for and he struggled to explain his behaviour on the night.
“It was a moment of madness and his conduct was extreme to whatever threat his friend was under which was clearly none,” he said.
In mitigation, Mr Grehan asked the court to consider his client’s early guilty plea to murder and to deal with the defendant on the basis that he is still a child.
In his submissions, the barrister said that his client had started drinking at a very young age and was unable to explain what he had done in any rational way.
Mr Grehan told the court that Mr Blair had extended the hand of friendship to his client by inviting him into the party. He said Cameron had played the role of a “good Samaritan” when he brought a drunk sleeping homeless man, who was on the step next-door, into the house on the night because he was concerned about him.
“There is no doubt about it, Mr Blair’s death not only caused unbelievable grief to a family but a man full of promise has been extinguished,” he said.
Following this, the defence barrister read aloud to the court a letter of apology written by his client to the Blair family in which he said he was remorseful for ending Mr Blair’s life in the way he did and it should never have happened.
“Cameron was nothing than nice to me on the night, he did nothing wrong to me,” he said. “It was never my intention for this to happen. It’s the first thing I think about every morning and the last thing I think about at night before I go to bed.”
Mr Justice McDermott remanded the defendant in custody to Oberstown Children Detention Centre until April 20, when he will be sentenced.