A WITNESS has described how he held on to his friend, Cameron Blair, as he bled out from a fatal stab wound to the neck, telling gardaí who arrived at the scene: “I can’t let go”.
Darren O’Leary also told the Central Criminal Court yesterday how murdered college student Cameron said that three teenagers, one of whom later plunged a knife into his neck, “were tome, or sound” before he brought them into a house party in Cork City.
“I said to Cameron, this is on your shoulders,” Mr O’Leary told the Central Criminal Court yesterday.
The jury also heard that 20-year-old Cameron was “completely unaware” that he had been stabbed as he was intoxicated at the time.
“I knew by the way the blood was coming out that it had hit an artery,” said Mr O’Leary.
The witness, who had hosted the “pre-drinks” party in his rented student accommodation, described applying pressure to Cameron’s neck before he collapsed on the ground and bled to death from the fatal stab wound.
The 12 jurors have been told that the events of this case related to “a tragic situation” where Cameron, a chemical engineering student at Cork Institute of Technology, died at Cork University Hospital last year after being stabbed in the neck. Another juvenile has already pleaded guilty to his murder.
Mr O’Leary was giving evidence yesterday in the trial of the now 16-year-old accused, who is charged with the production of a knife at a house on Bandon Road in Cork City on January 16, 2020.
The accused, who was 14 at the time of the incident and cannot be named because he is a minor, has pleaded not guilty to producing an article capable of inflicting serious injury in the course of a dispute, to wit a knife, in a manner likely to unlawfully intimidate another person.
Mr O’Leary told prosecuting counsel John Fitzgerald SC that he was working as a barman in Cork City at the time and living in rented accommodation on Bandon Road. He was having a pre-drinks party on the evening of January 16 and Cameron had arrived at 7pm with a couple of others.
“We always knew each other and started bonding a few months before,” he said.
Mr O’Leary said people were drinking, talking and socialising at the party, when an “old drunk fella” came to the front door.
“If you give enough pressure, the door comes off the latch,” he said, adding that the old man had “shouldered in the door” a couple of times and a few of them had thrown him out.
“I said to him if he kicked in the door one more time and set foot inside the house I would give him a slap,” the witness said.
He said the door then “came in again” and he gave the old man “an open slap, which wasn’t a hard slap at all”, before he “fell on his ass” outside the house.
Cameron had picked up the old man and three “lads”, who were standing in the background, started “giving out about the situation”, he continued.
Mr O’Leary said that Cameron told him that the three lads were “sound or tome” and he brought them into the party. “I said to Cameron this is on your shoulders,” he added.
The witness said it was “awkward at first” with the three boys, so he went over to the tallest of them and explained that what had happened outside “wasn’t anything serious”. “That was grand and we made peace then and things became more comfortable,” he said.
Referring to the incident, Mr O’Leary said that someone had mentioned that one of the three teenagers outside the house had “a blade”. The witness said he was about to ring 911, but hung up the phone as Cameron told him: “Darren it’s fine, they are tome, sound.”
People from outside the front of the house then began to run inside and into the bedroom, he said, and that was when he realised that the “middle fella” had a knife.
“The blade could have been five to six inches. It was by his side, he had it on his chest area and was waving it around, making it obvious he had a knife,” he explained.
He said that Cameron was intoxicated at the time and didn’t know what was going on.
The witness said a girl, who had been punched in the face by one of the three boys, was trying to go outside the house to confront the group as she was angry.
“She pulled at me, I pushed her away as my main concern was Cameron. I picked her up and threw her on the couch,” he said.
Mr O’Leary said he then pulled the front door open and Cameron began staggering backwards, with blood coming from his neck. “I knew by the way the blood was coming out that it had hit an artery,” he noted.
“I grabbed Cameron by the throat, at this stage he was completely unaware that he had been stabbed. He was looking at the two lads running away,” he said.
The witness said he then pulled Cameron into the house, held him inside the door and began applying pressure to his neck to stop the bleeding. “I told him that he had been stabbed, I was holding him up in my hands,” he said.
Mr O’Leary said he looked at the front door and saw the “fella in the middle” staring at what had happened and “he looked shocked”.
The witness told another friend to hold the door closed until gardaí arrived.
A few seconds later, Mr O’Leary said that Cameron fell back against the door and collapsed. “I fell down with him,” he added.
Mr O’Leary testified that he began shouting at others in the house to call an ambulance as Cameron had been stabbed in the throat.
“There was no way of knowing where he had been stabbed. They didn’t realise he had been stabbed and I shouted ‘stop fucking looking and call an ambulance’,” he continued.
Gardaí arrived 10 minutes later and cleared the house. “I told them I can’t let go as he had been stabbed,” he said.
When the paramedics arrived, he said he was told to leave the house and stand outside.
Under cross-examination, the witness told defence counsel Timothy O’Leary SC that he was hosting the “pre-drinks” party on the night for up to eight people, but said he was not drinking. He said Cameron had been at home in West Cork working with his father and wanted a night out.
“He wanted to go drinking and we decided we would have it in my house as it is close to the city centre,” he said.
Mr O’Leary agreed that it was supposed to be a “mild affair”, but it had turned into a “full-blown party” saying: “It started getting bigger than what it should have been, and more and more people started coming, and it turned into a party of between 20 and 30 people”.
He explained that some of the original guests had started “uploading Snapchat videos” of people drinking in the house and “word started getting around and they asked if they could come”.
The barrister put it to the witness that his memory should be “crystal clear” from the night as he had not been drinking or taking drugs. In reply, he said: “It’s a time I have tried to block out for the last two years.”
The witness agreed with counsel that in his statement he had described seeing “three scumbags”, whom he did not know, standing outside his house after he had slapped the old drunk man in the face. The witness said they had asked him what he was doing and told him to just let the old man inside. He also agreed that he had told the three boys that he was paying rent of €650 a month and he would decide who came into his house and to “fuck off”.
Mr O’Leary told the lawyer that he wouldn’t normally act like this, but he would defend his property when people tried to come into his house. “They intervened, they were being aggressive and I was being aggressive back,” he said. “Cameron then turned to me and said the lads were sound and he knew the tall guy and to let them in,” he said. The witness said he went over to the tallest of the three boys inside the house “to clear the air”.
“Once I spoke to [him] I made it clear it was OK and it wasn’t anything personal,” he said.
He agreed with counsel that the three boys were “getting rowdy” so he decided to clear the house and “came up with an idea” to pretend that they were all heading into the city. “When they started getting drunk, no one wanted them in the house. It was clear everyone felt unsettled,” he said.
He said he knew people were taking cocaine at the party, but did not know about the MDMA and did not see “anything about the weed.”
Dave Sheehan, who described himself as one of Cameron’s best friends, previously told Mr Fitzgerald that he saw the 16-year-old accused with a “small knife” and “the blade was no more than four inches”. When asked how the accused was holding the knife, the witness said “down by his side in his left hand”.
Under cross-examination Mr Sheehan told the accused’s defence barrister that he had seen the knife “with my eyes”, when it was suggested to him that he had “added on another layer” about the accused having a knife.
In his opening address, Mr Fitzgerald told the jurors that they must decide whether the accused produced a knife “capable of inflicting serious injury” in the course of a dispute at a house party where Cameron was murdered.
Last week, the boy pleaded guilty to committing violent disorder with two other persons present together, using or threatening to use unlawful violence, and such conduct taken together would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at Bandon Road in Cork city to fear for his or another person’s safety at the said place on the same occasion.
The cross-examination of Mr O’Leary will continue today before Mr Justice David Keane and a jury of eight men and four women.