A MAN who denied three counts of arson to cars parked outside a house was treated for second degree burn injuries to his hands very soon after the disputed crime, it emerged during his trial.
But at Cork Circuit Criminal Court, by the time the jury returned with their guilty verdict against him the accused had gone.
Michael Murphy, aged 39, of 36 Riverview Estate, Blarney, was found guilty by the unanimous decision of the jury. Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin issued a warrant for the arrest of Murphy to be brought to court for sentencing.
The judge said to the jury: “You may have noticed Mr Murphy is not with us. Maybe he was overcome with anxiety about Stephen Kenny’s team tonight (Kenny is manager of the Irish senior soccer team who were playing tonight). He is not here. He was present for the trial. The verdict stands anyway.”
Gardaí found a partially burnt glove with a DNA match to Michael Murphy close to the scene of the arson where the three cars were destroyed outside a house at Hillcrest, School Road, Whitechurch, on December 28, 2018.
Murphy’s ex-partner told gardaí she found this glove in her car — to which the accused had access — and because of ill-feeling towards the accused at the time, she planted the glove at the crime scene.
Detective Garda Maurice Leahy challenged the suggestion that at this time the relationship between the two parties was over. He said he saw the two of them together in a car two days before she claimed to gardaí that she had planted the evidence.
Imelda Kelly, prosecution barrister, said to the five women and seven men of the jury: “You bring the strands of circumstantial evidence together — when you combine and analyse them they become like a strong rope and make a compelling case.
“You heard from Gardaí Ian Foley and Maurice Leahy. They both told you they met him the evening before and told you what he was wearing. I have to say that it is striking the similarity with clothing discarded on waste ground near his home. Gardaí said he had no hand injuries around 10pm. Later he had burn injuries to his hands and needed treatment.
“(A medic) was called to his home at 2.16am. I say that is very close in space and time to cars going on fire in Hillcrest (sometime after midnight).
“Mr Murphy was somewhat agitated. To his (the medic’s) mind there was drink on board. He (Michael Murphy) had no top on. He treated Mr Murphy for second degree burns from the wrist down on both hands. He initially looked for a fight with the paramedic.
“The clothing in waste ground near 36 Riverview Estate. Garda Michael Walsh found the clothes. He called a colleague to photograph them — dark blue hoodie with scorch marks on the sleeve, grey tracksuit pants with scorch marks near the groin area and a strong smell of petrol from the clothing.
“Thirty-six hours later he saw partially burnt glove (outside the house where the cars were burned).”
There was forensic evidence of a DNA match linking the accused to this glove.
Elizabeth O’Connell defence senior counsel said: “You have heard a lot of messy evidence — warts and all. A picture of a person whose life at that time was messy. The state must build the case in detail, solidly and in detail. It is not for the defence to answer all questions. The prosecution may have laid the mortar very carefully but it does not matter if there is still a major problem in the case. You must not only find the case is proven and built solidly but is beyond all reasonable doubt.
“Nothing looks more impressive than DNA evidence — this is science speaking. You have a theory clad in the clothes of science. The DNA does not prove he set the fire or that he was up at Hillcrest. You have a scorched tracksuit. It does not thread back to Hillcrest. You have heard two men — they say that on a night after Christmas that Mr Murphy was pushed or fell into a bonfire. In relation to the glove, I say it does raise a reasonable doubt. If that glove was left by Mr Murphy it would have been there on the 28th but it was not found on the 28th when the scenes of crime examiners were there, it was found on the 29th. If it was not there on the 28th it would be supportive of the claim made by his ex-partner.”