Waterford man found not guilty of murder of his father and guilty of manslaughter

Daughter of late man remembers her father following 'tragic' dispute
Waterford man found not guilty of murder of his father and guilty of manslaughter

Eoghan Dalton

A man has been found not guilty of murdering his father at their home in Co Waterford.

After eight-and-a-half hours of deliberation, the jury of eight women and four men accepted Stephen Butler's defence that while he had "repeatedly punched" John Butler (48) he did not mean to cause him harm when they got into a row after a visit to their local pub on January 11th, 2020.

Stephen Butler (23) had pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter and the jury returned this verdict.

The father and son, who had been drinking earlier at the Clodagh Bar across the road from their home in the village of Portlaw, 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 younger man forced his way in and the two exchanged punches, with the younger man dealing several to his father as the door opened.

'Enormous tragedy'

The Central Criminal Court trial, which lasted for eight days, heard that the resulting death of John Butler was an "enormous tragedy" for the family.

The older man was found inside the hallway of his house at 44 Brown St, Portlaw, with attempts to resuscitate him by onlookers unsuccessful.

Speaking after the verdict, John Butler's daughter Katilyn said she wanted her father to be remembered as a man who "everybody in the community loved".

The older man was found just outside the hallway of his house in Portlaw, following a row with his son Stephen, and was later pronounced dead at University Hospital Waterford.

He was originally from Carrick-On-Suir in Co Tipperary but had been working and living in Portlaw for a number of years, where he worked in the Dr Martin Day Centre in Portlaw and was a member of the local men’s shed.

"I don't want how he died or anything like that to be [how he's] remembered," Ms Butler said.

"I just want people to have love and respect for my dad as they would have beforehand," the 19-year-old added.

"He loved his life. He had his dogs, he betted and enjoyed his pints on the weekend, it was a simple life but he loved it and I want people to remember that.

'The first hug in a long time'

While Stephen and Katilyn Butler had "minimal contact" prior to the trial, this changed once it got underway.

Ms Butler said she was "very angry at my brother" which she accepts were her "own personal feelings from losing my dad, so I took my anger out on him".

She continued: "As soon as the trial started I realised it was still the same old brother that I had three years ago, it made me sad looking at him sitting there.

"I knew he didn't deserve to be there, so from then on I'd decide every now and then go up and see how he was doing and I gave him a hug - the first hug in a long time."

'Fraught relationship'

The court heard that there was a “fraught, complicated and difficult” relationship between the two, with references made to claims of domestic violence by Stephen Butler between his now separated parents in his interviews with gardaí.

The younger Butler had been living between Portlaw and his mother Liza Kelly's at Sheilbaggin, Ramsgrange, New Ross, Co Wexford, at the time of the altercation.

Making the case for finding the younger Butler guilty of murder, State prosecutor Michael Delaney SC said he had "repeatedly punched his father", striking him in both sides of the head, causing fractures to his father's soft ear and nasal bones before he was pronounced dead by medical personnel.

Provoked

Defence barrister Colman Cody said Stephen Butler had been provoked by his father, who had locked him outside their 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, and added that no weapon was used during the attack.

Charging the jury, Justice Paul Burns said the decision lay on whether Stephen Butler intended to either kill or cause serious injury, and it did not have to be premeditated to qualify as murder.

Following a lengthy deliberation without success, the judge said he would accept a majority verdict, with ten jurors then finding in favour of the manslaughter verdict.

Justice Burns directed the preparation of a probation service report and governor's report ahead of the sentencing, which is due to take place in Dublin on December 13th.

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