Jury start deliberations on 'enormous tragedy' of man (23) accused of murdering his father

Jury must decide whether Stephen Butler's actions in the early hours of January 11th, 2020 at his father John Butler's home in Portlaw, Co Waterford, amount to murder or manslaughter
Jury start deliberations on 'enormous tragedy' of man (23) accused of murdering his father

Eoghan Dalton

The jury in the trial of a man accused of murdering his father has begun its deliberations.

They must decide whether Stephen Butler's actions in the early hours of January 11th, 2020 at his father John Butler's home in Portlaw, Co Waterford, amount to murder or manslaughter.

The 23-year-old, who has an address at Sheilbaggin, Ramsgrange, New Ross, Co Wexford, has pleaded not guilty to the State's murder charge, however he has pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

Darts gathering

The father and son, who had been drinking as part of a darts gathering at the pub across the road from their Brown Street home prior to their violent encounter, had been "taking sly digs" at each other according to other pub goers and wound up in a row at the house's entrance, where John Butler pushed Stephen Butler outside and attempted to close the door on him.

The Central Criminal Court trial, which reached its eighth day on Thursday, had heard that John Butler tried to keep his son outside the house after the pub but the two exchanged punches, with the younger man dealing several to his father as the door opened.

Making the case for finding the younger Butler guilty of murder to the jury on Thursday, State prosecutor Michael Delaney SC said he had "repeatedly punched his father", striking him in both sides of the head. They were "not soft blows", he added, causing fractures to his father's soft ear and nasal bones before he was pronounced dead by medical personnel.

"He said he didn't mean to hurt him, but there is no evidence that any of these blows were accidental," Mr Delaney said.

He noted a “fraught, complicated and difficult” relationship between the two Butlers, resulting in an "enormous tragedy" for their family.

Sorrow

Telling the jury it should consider a manslaughter verdict, defence barrister Colman Cody said he had been provoked by his father, who had locked him outside the home on a "wet and miserable winter's night" and told him during their row: "You're no son of mine."

He said the accused's prevailing attitude was one of "sorrow" throughout several hours' worth of interviews with investigating gardaí in the two days following his father's death, and added that no weapon was used during the attack.

His demeanour showed "his frame of mind" according to Mr Cody, who pointed to Detective Garda Paul O'Flynn's praise of the man for his cooperation.

'Negative light'

Mr Delaney, prosecuting, told the jury that 10 minutes had elapsed while Stephen Butler was outside the house, saying it gave "ample opportunity for him to calm himself down and to walk away" from the house.

He added that there was "an attempt by Stephen Butler to present his father in a negative light", including how he referred to his father as goading him during the night.

However, Mr Delaney insisted Stephen Butler had acted in the main in this, by seeking to change his initials on the pub's darts board that night from 'SB' to 'SK', for his mother's maiden name of Kelly.

Charging the jury, Justice Paul Burns said they must decide whether there was "an intent to either kill or cause serious injury" on Stephen Butler's part, and that any attack does not have to be premeditated to qualify as murder.

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