A teenager held a knife high above his head and pointed it at party-goers outside a house in Cork city where 20-year-old college student Cameron Blair was murdered, the Central Criminal Court was told yesterday.
The court also heard during the sentence hearing that the now 19-year-old accused had pulled up his top, revealing his waistband, when his 14-year-old friend told him: “Give it to me, I’ll shank one of them.”
Evidence was also given that the defendant told gardaí that he had earlier picked up the knife from the kitchen floor of the house “to scare” the others at the party but said he had no intention of using it.
Scott O’Connor, of Churchfield Square, Churchfield, Cork appeared in court for his sentence hearing, having pleaded guilty last January to committing violent disorder at Bandon Rd in Cork on January 16, 2020. He has also pleaded guilty to producing an article capable of inflicting serious injury in the course of a dispute, to wit a knife, in a manner likely unlawfully to intimidate another person on the same occasion.
Mr Blair died at Cork University Hospital (CUH) on January 16, 2020 after being stabbed in the neck while attending a student party at a house in Cork city. Another juvenile has already pleaded guilty to his murder.
At yesterday’s sentence hearing Inspector Martin Canny, of Henry Street Garda Station, detailed the background to the case.
Outlining the events that led up to the fatal stabbing, Insp Canny said there were approximately 50 people “coming and going” at the party at various times between 6.30pm and 9.30pm that evening.
Three teenagers — included O’Connor, a 17-year-old boy and a 14-year-old boy — were invited into the party by Mr Blair following a disagreement outside the party.
Later, some of the students let on that they were leaving the party as a ruse to get the teenagers to leave.
Once the three teenagers were outside on the footpath, said prosecution counsel Anne Rowland SC, the youngest of the boys said he had left his phone charger inside but no charger could be found belonging to him.
Mr Blair was standing at the door and “tasked” with not letting anybody else enter the house.
“If the lock had been working, there would not have been a problem and the door would have been closed,” said Insp Canny.
The court heard that a “scuffle” then broke out at the front door.
Ms Rowland said that, during the evening, O’Connor and his two co-accused had gone into the kitchen and armed themselves with knives.
“They held onto those knives for quite awhile but concealed them on their persons,” she said.
A row then broke out between the teenagers and some party-goers. One witness, Tiernan Quinn, told gardaí he saw O’Connor turn his back to him, pull up his top, revealing his waistband as the 14-year old said: “Give it to me, I’ll shank one of them.”
Another witness, Ms Rowland said, told gardaí he saw O’Connor with the kitchen blade in his hand, “pointing it forwards and backwards” towards party-goers.
Another witness said he saw “grappling” between the accused, the 14-year-old and Cameron. He said Mr Blair and Mr Quinn were trying to keep them out of the house when O’Connor produced the knife.
Another witness said he saw O’Connor and the younger boy with knives.
The third youth, who is serving life in prison for murdering Cameron, was at the edge of the footpath during the altercation when O’Connor and the youngest boy were trying to push their way into the house. He was brandishing the large knife in his hand before he suddenly “lunged” at Mr Blair, who was acting as the “peacemaker” on the night, said Ms Rowland.
In April 2020, this third youth, then aged 17, who murdered Mr Blair by plunging a knife into his neck, received a life sentence that will be reviewed in 2032. The boy, who could not be named because he was a minor, pleaded guilty to murdering Mr Blair.
Ronan Munro SC, defending O’Connor, said his client had co-operated with gardaí as he was aware that there was a picture of him on social media.
A probation report was made available to the court in which O’Connor said he will always regret the circumstances of that evening and that Mr Blair was one of the nicest people at the party. The defendant also said he wished to offer his sincere apologies to the victim’s family.
In mitigation, Mr Munro said his client had indicated that he was not waving around a knife but accepted that it was produced. The court rose for a while after Mr Justice David Keane said he was struggling to reconcile what O’Connor had told the probation officer with what he had witnessed in CCTV footage.
When the court sat again, Ms Rowland said that the prosecution did not accept that O’Connor’s interviews with gardaí fully reflected his participation in events and he was “not being frank” in relation to certain events such as where witnesses said he was “waving” the knife.
Mr Munro asked the court to take into account that his client had never been in prison, his relative youth and the guilty pleas.
Mr Justice Keane remanded the defendant on continuing bail until July 5, when he will be sentenced.