A SECOND witness has told a jury that a teenage accused was “brandishing” and “waving” a knife during an argument outside a house party in Cork City, where 20-year-old college student Cameron Blair was murdered.
Under cross-examination for a second day at the Central Criminal Court, Darren O’Leary, who hosted the pre-drinks party in his rented accommodation in Cork City, insisted to the accused’s defence counsel that he had seen the knife “with my own eyes” and, if the barrister “said differently”, then that was “a lie”.
It is the defence’s contention that two boys out of a group of three, who had gathered outside the house, were in possession of a knife on the night, but not the defendant in this case. One of the boys has admitted murdering Mr Blair and another has pleaded guilty to violent disorder and to the production of a knife.
Another witness, Ciara Morrissey, testified yesterday that she was “hit” in the eye by “the smallest of the three boys”.
The 12 jurors have been told that the events of this case related to “a tragic situation” where Mr Blair, 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.
The now 16-year-old accused 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 continued his cross-examination yesterday and told defence counsel Timothy O’Leary SC that he first became alerted that “something unusual” was happening on the night, when people began running into the bedroom. Referring to the 16-year-old accused boy by his full name yesterday, Mr O’Leary said he saw the juvenile staring in the front door of the house “in shock” after the incident and told his friend to close the door.
The barrister asked the witness why he was now using the accused’s full name when he had not known his name on the night. “I was able to identify him in the picture,” replied Mr O’Leary. The jury has heard that the three boys had their photo taken at the party and copies of this have been provided to the jurors.
Counsel put it to the witness that another juvenile has pleaded guilty to murdering Mr Blair. “He [the accused] still had a knife,” remarked the witness, adding that he was aware another juvenile had pleaded guilty to murdering his friend. The witness said that he accepted that this other juvenile was the person who had killed Mr Blair.
The lawyer put it to Mr O’Leary that he had just picked his client’s name out of the three boys. “That’s why I’m sitting here today is to give evidence against him,” replied the witness.
Ultimately, counsel said that three people including his client had been prosecuted for various matters to do with this case. The lawyer said one juvenile had pleaded guilty to murdering Mr Blair and he was the person who had stabbed him in the neck with a knife. A second individual, who was the tallest out of the three boys, had pleaded guilty to violent disorder and to the production of a knife, he said. “So we have both people using a knife that is not my client,” he added.
Counsel then put it to Mr O’Leary that two of the three boys had knives on the night and one of those two boys had killed Mr Blair. “So your evidence to me is that the only person you saw with a knife was my client. Is that what you are saying?” asked the lawyer. In reply, Mr O’Leary said: “Yes.”
The lawyer asked Mr O’Leary how had he managed “to miss” the other knives and to just focus on his then 14-year-old client. “Because when all this was happening I seen him standing at the front door with a knife [sic],” he replied.
“So no one else had a knife?” asked counsel. “I only saw him,” said Mr O’Leary.
The barrister asked the witness again if his client was the only person that he had seen with a knife. Mr O’Leary said it was.
Mr O’Leary said that he had referred to the three boys in his interviews with gardaí as “scumbags” because it was a “figure of speech”. When asked by counsel what this meant, the witness said it was “people who go out of their way to cause serious harm to someone for no reason”.
Counsel asked the witness if he would not apply the word “scumbag” to someone who slapped another person on the side of the road. Evidence has been given that Mr O’Leary slapped an “old drunk man” who had “shouldered in” the front door of his house on the night. “He [the old man] came into my house and I was defending my property,” replied the witness.
“So you are not a scumbag?” suggested counsel. “It’s a different situation when someone is brandishing a knife around,” replied Mr O’Leary. Counsel put it to the witness that he did not know who the three boys were on the night. “I called them scumbags after they murdered Cameron Blair,” he said.
Mr O’Leary repeated that he had seen the accused “brandishing a knife” at the front door.
“You didn’t see them brandishing knives, just my client,” pressed counsel.
“At the front door I seen him [the accused] with a knife,” said Mr O’Leary.
The barrister then pointed over to his client in the courtroom, who was sitting next to his mother, and said: “That kid against Cameron and you guys — you’re seven or eight years older.”
“We are seven years older, but he had a blade that could cause serious harm. All we know is he could have caused serious harm,” replied Mr O’Leary.
Counsel further put it to the witness that he had just seen his client, who one knew had not murdered Mr Blair, with a knife and no one else. Mr O’Leary said that some of his friends were standing in the doorway keeping the three boys out of the house and the only person he could see with a knife was the accused.
When the witness was asked how he had managed to see “just” the accused, Mr O’Leary replied it was “just who I saw”.
The barrister asked the witness if the three boys were “waving” the knives around. He said he saw the accused “waving the knife” outside the front door: “I seen him with my own eyes, if you say different that is a lie [sic].” He said that he saw no one else with a knife outside the house.
When asked if he saw anyone else outside the house at the time, the witness said he saw two other boys from the group and another male in a hoodie.
The witness said he had been told the names of the three boys “after everything happened” and repeated that the only person he had seen with a knife on the night was the accused.
In summary, counsel asked the witness why he had not told Garda Maurice O’Connor on the night that he had seen anyone with a knife. “I can’t remember that,” he said.
Ciara Morrissey told prosecution counsel John Fitzgerald SC that she had gone to the party with her two friends, but only knew two people there. She said at one point she went to the bathroom with her two friends and, when she returned, there were three people at the party who had not been there previously. Ms Morrissey said she knew the tallest of the three boys and began talking to him. “They mentioned they had school the next day in a group conversation,” she added.
The witness said that “something was going on” between two groups of people later that night. She said there was “a cluster of people” inside the front door and a group of people on the footpath outside. She walked outside the door and saw the three boys. “There was a commotion, but what they were arguing over I have no clue,” she said, adding that there was “loud shouting” between the two groups.
Ms Morrissey said the “three lads” were no longer welcome in the house and she had “shoved back” the guy on her left-hand side. “As I did that, he hit me. At the time he was the smallest of the three,” she remarked. “He hit me on my left eye. I have no memory after that really.”
The witness said she remembered seeing “a body” at the front of the stairs and three of Mr Blair’s friends were looking for towels.
Under cross-examination, Mr O’Leary told the witness that this was “a nasty thing” to have happened to her and said he was not there to defend that “for a moment”. Ms Morrissey agreed that she knew the tallest of the three boys and she had gone outside to try to calm him down. “I clearly did not calm him down,” she told the defence barrister.
A friend of the previous witness, Courtney Histon, told Mr Fitzgerald that there had been a fight outside the front door of the house and said Ms Morrissey had gone outside. “She came in after being hit and then the door closed for two minutes,” she said.
Ms Histon said the three boys were trying to come back into the house, and Mr Blair and maybe another person were standing in the doorway. She said she remembered the boy who had stabbed Mr Blair “trying to stick his foot in the doorway” to get back into the house and was “focused” on him as he had a knife in his hand.
When asked what happened after the exchange between the two groups, Ms Histon became visibly upset and said her friend had come back into the house and the door was then closed. “It opened two minutes later and Cameron came in and he had been stabbed in the neck,” she said.
Dave Sheehan, who described himself as one of Mr Blair’s best friends, previously told Mr Fitzgerald that he saw the 16-year-old accused with a knife and said it was 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 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 Mr Blair 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 trial continues on Tuesday before Mr Justice David Keane and a jury of eight men and four women.