A 24-year-old man has pleaded guilty to murdering a vulnerable pensioner whose mutilated body was found “covered in blood” in the living room of his own home after he was attacked with an axe.
Oliver Doran, with an address at Sophia Housing, Cork Street, Dublin 8, had pleaded not guilty to the murder of Kwok Ping Cheng (76) at Robinson’s Court, Cork Street, Dublin 8, on a date between April 28th and 29th, 2021.
However, at the Central Criminal Court on Tuesday afternoon, on what was the third day of his murder trial, counsel for Mr Doran told Mr Justice David Keane the accused wished to enter a plea of guilty.
Michael Bowman SC, for the defence, confirmed to the court that, following numerous discussions with his legal team, Mr Doran wished to enter a guilty plea to the charge of murder.
He said the 24-year-old wished to apologise to Mr Cheng’s family for what had transpired and asked for forgiveness from them. Mr Doran was taking this step in the hope of giving them some closure, Mr Bowman said.
The defendant provided his lawyers with a letter on Monday and had asked that this be given to Mr Cheng’s family, counsel added.
Mr Bowman said he had consulted with Mr Doran in relation to the plea which has been entered and said the defendant was “very firm” in relation to the alternative course he wished to take.
Mr Doran was rearraigned on the charge of murder and pleaded guilty in front of the jury that had been sworn in to hear his trial. Anne-Marie Lawlor SC, for the Director of Public Prosecutions, said the plea was accepted by the State.
Discharging the jury, Mr Justice Keane thanked them for their service in the case and exempted the panel from jury duty for a period of five years.
Mr Bowman said the defendant had taken “a very unusual step” in a situation where he was very conscious of the pain and suffering he had visited on the victim’s family and said a probation report may be appropriate in this case under circumstances where drink and drugs had been consumed.
Mr Justice Keane directed that a probation report and victim impact statements be prepared and remanded Mr Doran in custody to April 19 for sentencing.
During the trial, the court heard Mr Cheng was originally from China but had lived in Ireland for some time and had family here. He was known to friends as Chinese George and lived in sheltered accommodation at Robinsons Court.
The jury of nine women and three men was told Mr Cheng died as a result of “multiple traumatic injuries” including a fractured skull and arm, chop wounds, bruises and lacerations.
In her opening address to the jury, Ms Lawlor said Mr Doran was interviewed by gardaí following the pensioner’s death and told investigating officers he killed Mr Cheng with the axe he had brought from his own home.
She said he had indicated that he did not remember a lot of what occurred because he had taken an intoxicant.
Mr Doran accepted he caused the death of Mr Cheng with an axe he took from his own home, that he fled the next day and that he initially went to Northern Ireland and then to England, counsel added.
Witness James Ellis told how he found the pensioner’s body “covered in blood” in his sheltered accommodation on the morning of April 29th, 2021, at around 10am.
He told Ms Lawlor that he called out to Mr Cheng after he saw his body but “I knew he was dead”.
“As I backed out, I could see the place was ransacked. I said a quick prayer and called the emergency services,” he added.
Evidence was also heard from State pathologist Dr Heidi Okkers who said Mr Cheng suffered multiple broken bones and wounds that exposed his skull and underlying bones. She said the most severe injuries were the scalp lacerations and these were most likely caused by an axe which had been shown to her at the scene.
Outlining her findings from the postmortem, Dr Okkers told Ms Lawlor that Mr Cheng had multiple traumatic injuries including chop wounds, incise wounds, lacerations, bruises and abrasions. She said a chop wound is usually inflicted by a heavier weapon like an axe or a machete.
Dr Okkers told the jury that Mr Cheng’s cause of death was hypovolemic shock as a result of blood loss due to multiple injuries.
On Monday, Detective Garda Aidan Smylie told Ms Lawlor that CCTV showed the movements of Mr Cheng and the defendant on the April 28th and 29th, 2021. It shows the pensioner returning to his home at 6.42pm. He does not emerge again.
The footage shows Mr Doran exiting Sophia Housing at 9.45pm and entering Robinson's Court a short time later, the detective garda said. He appeared to have something under his jacket.
Mr Doran entered Mr Cheng’s home and spent one hour and 13 minutes in the flat before leaving via the front door.
The detective said that Mr Doran appeared to drop “an axe-like tool” on the ground and when he attempted to retrieve it, he fell over. He said Mr Doran put the tool back inside his jacket and walked away unsteadily.
He again entered Mr Cheng’s home through the rear window shortly after 1am and spent seven minutes in the flat before exiting and returning to Sophia Housing, Det Gda Smylie said.