TWO teenage boys “with knives in their hands” were trying “to reach past” 20-year-old college student Cameron Blair as he blocked a doorway into a house party in Cork city on the night he was murdered, a witness has told the Central Criminal Court.
The jury was also told today that a “tall fella” had pulled up his top during the argument and “the smaller fella” said: “Give it to me, I’ll shank one of them”.
It is the defence 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 Cameron and another has pleaded guilty to violent disorder and to the production of a knife.
However, it is the State’s case that each of the three boys had a knife on the night.
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 (CIT), died at Cork University Hospital (CUH) 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.
Tiernan Quinn told prosecuting counsel John Fitzgerald SC today that two other “lads” had arrived at the party with “a bag of weed” on the night and given it to party-goer Marcel Szulhan.
“It was less than what they had agreed and he [Mr Szulhan] went outside and mentioned it to them,” explained Mr Quinn, adding that Mr Szulhan was then given more cannabis by “the two lads”.
“He [Mr Szulhan] gave the rest of the bag of weed back to the two lads. After that, it seemed to be sorted and there was no issue,” he added.
Mr Szulhan has already given evidence that individuals at the party had “chipped in €5 or €10” to buy €50 worth of cannabis for an “after party” at the house. He said he had asked the tallest of the group of three boys, which included the accused, if he could “sort it for us”. Mr Szulhan also testified that the youngest of the three boys told a party-goer that he would “shank” them on the night.
Mr Szulhan told the court that he wasn’t the only person to ask the taller of the “three lads” to get cannabis and explained that it was a group of them. “It wasn’t me sorting the whole thing, I was the one that gave him the money and that was about it,” he added.
Mr Quinn said that the host of the party, Darren O’Leary, started “clearing” the house, when it was time for the party-goers to go into town. The three boys were “still hanging around” outside the house and trying to come back in “saying they had left an iPhone charger inside,” he continued.
“The smaller fella was saying he wanted a charger and a charger was passed out. They had the charger but they were still there causing hassle to get back into the house,” he indicated.
Mr Quinn said it was getting “rowdy” at this stage and he saw the “tall fella” pull up his top during the argument and “the smaller fella” said: “Give it to me, I’ll shank one of them.”
The witness, who was over a metre away from the doorway, said that “the tall fella and the small fella” were “reaching around” Cameron “trying to get past him” and punches were being thrown.
“I remember looking up and Cameron was blocking the doorway and the small lad and tall lad were trying to reach past him with knives in their hands,” he remarked.
Mr Quinn said he was “shocked for a second” when he saw the knives so he ran out through the back garden of the house.
“I heard sirens when I was outside in the garden and thought the gardaí were there so I thought it was good to go back,” he said.
Mr Fitzgerald asked the witness if he could say by reference to a photograph which two of the three boys he had seen with knives on the night. “The one on the left and in the middle,” he replied.
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. Under cross-examination today, Timothy O’Leary SC told Mr Quinn that his client was “the man in the middle” of the photograph.
When asked how Mr Szulhan was able to measure the weed, Mr Quinn said he had got a weighing scales from “one of the lads”.
Mr O’Leary put it to Mr Quinn that he seemed to be suggesting the death of Cameron occurred over a phone charger.
“Yes, there was a phone charger, the smallest of the lads was saying he left a phone charger inside the house, which I don’t think he did but he was saying that to get back into the house,” he said.
When asked by the barrister why the three boys wanted to get back into the house, Mr Quinn said it was because they were going into town and the three boys didn’t “seem to want to leave”.
He said the three boys were “just causing trouble” and they still wanted to come back into the house despite the phone charger being given to them.
Mr Quinn told Mr O’Leary that “the tall man” and “the small man” both had knives on the night.
The lawyer asked the witness if he had seen two knives on the night and the witness said he had.
“You did not see three knives,” asked Mr O’Leary. “No”, replied Mr Quinn.
Mr O’Leary asked the witness if he knew that the two other boys in the group had already pleaded guilty to having a knife. Mr Quinn said he did.
The next witness, Tim Slattery, told Mr Fitzgerald that “three lads” had come into the party and they looked “unfamiliar” and were wearing tracksuits.
He said Cameron and others were trying “to clear the three lads” out of the house and that was when “the knives came out” and “the fight broke out”.
“I remember the smallest male mentioned something about a shank”, he said.
He continued: “The taller male produced a knife and the shorter male had a knife as well”.
Mr Slattery said he had “panicked a bit” when he saw the knives and ran towards the back door before climbing over the back wall.
Under cross-examination, Mr Slattery told Mr O’Leary that he now knew the argument was about Mr Szulhan “purchasing the weed” and it not being the amount it was supposed to have been.
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 knife.
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.
A second witness, Mr O’Leary who hosted the pre-drinks party, testified that the accused was “brandishing” and “waving” a knife during an argument outside the house party. He 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”.
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.
The accused has 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 tomorrow before Mr Justice David Keane and a jury of eight men and four women.
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