'I'm angry because the garda tried to kill me,' garda murder accused told detectives

Stephen Silver has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Garda Colm Horkan in June 2020
'I'm angry because the garda tried to kill me,' garda murder accused told detectives

Ryan Dunne

Stephen Silver, the motorbike mechanic charged with the murder of Garda Colm Horkan, told detectives that Gda Horkan went for his gun after “losing whatever struggle” ensued between the two men.

The jury in the trial of Mr Silver (46), of Aughavard, Foxford, Co Mayo, also heard on Wednesday that the accused told gardaí he was “absolutely sure” he would have been killed in the struggle that ended in Gda Horkan being shot 11 times with his own gun.

Mr Silver has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Gda Horkan, knowing or being reckless as to whether he was a member of An Garda Síochána acting in accordance with his duty at Castlerea, Co Roscommon on June 17th, 2020.

He has pleaded guilty to manslaughter and the jury have been told the main issue in the trial is Mr Silver’s state of mind at the time of the shooting.

The jury at the Central Criminal Court were shown a video recording of Mr Silver’s first interview in Castlerea Garda station the day after his arrest. This evidence was presented by Detective Inspector Brian Hanley.

In the interview, Mr Silver said he was heading up the street on the night laughing and joking with his friend, James Coyne, when “a massive tank of a blue car pulled up”.

“This guy put down the window and said, ‘Who are you?’ He said, ‘I’m a guard.’ He turned to get out and I saw Tommy Hilfiger on his jacket and I thought: 'He’s not a guard',” Mr Silver said.

'Law-abiding citizen'

“He was straight up to me. I said, ‘Get away from me,’ and I pushed him. James said, ‘Jesus, no, Stephen.’ He (Gda Horkan) said, ‘James,’ and attacked me, and a struggle ensued. I felt a gun, and I grabbed his hand and there was a holster and a handgun. He was struggling with it.

"The next thing, he had it out. I went: 'F*ck, this is real'. There were bullets flying everywhere. He shot himself. I had no control of it; he had control of it, it was like a loose cannon. I got the gun off him. I think I shot him like that (indicates chest area).

"My glasses fell off, and I can't see for sh*t with no glasses. I'm holding a gun and there are guards everywhere, and I threw the gun away. I was absolutely sure I was going to be killed,” Mr Silver said.

Mr Silver told gardaí he was “a law-abiding citizen” who has a bipolar condition. He said the incident with Gda Horkan “happened in a flash” and this was the first time he had ever pulled a trigger.

“He went for his gun as he was losing whatever struggle happened, so he decided to shoot me. He never asked me any questions and he never produced ID. I was inadvertently involved in a shooting because I was down visiting my friend,” Mr Silver said.

The jury also heard that Mr Silver said he could not run away as he thought he would have got shot in the back.

“I don’t even know his name, he told me it, but I can’t remember it. To get attacked on the street in my own home town when going for a pizza is not nice. We were having such a good day,” the accused said.

Counsel for the prosecution, Michael Delaney SC, read from a memo of interview with Mr Silver that was taken at Castlerea Garda station on June 18th, 2020.

Garda college

In the interview, Mr Silver said he pushed Gda Horkan as the garda was “in my space”.

“I was sure I was going to be killed. I’m angry about it because the garda tried to kill me,” Mr Silver said.

Mr Delaney said that at one point during the interview, Mr Silver showed the gardaí marks on his arms.

Det Insp Hanley gave evidence to Mr Delaney that Mr Silver took a toilet break during the interview, and after he came out, Det Insp Hanley saw him put a plug into a basin and fill it with hot water, into which he submerged both arms up to the elbow.

“He was striking his forearms with quite a lot of force. This was the same area where he indicated he had marks from coming together with Gda Horkan,” Det Insp Hanley said.

The jury also heard from Detective Sergeant Eric Godfrey, who gave evidence to counsel for the prosecution, James Dwyer SC, that he and Gda Horkan were both in the class of 1994 that graduated from Garda College.

He said that he and another trainee from Mayo developed a friendship with Gda Horkan and they were attested together in September of that year.

At this point in his evidence, Det Sgt Godfrey became emotional in the witness box and Ms Justice Tara Burns suggested taking a short break, but Det Sgt Godfrey told the judge he was ready to continue.

He told the court that he remained close friends with Gda Horkan until the garda's death.

The trial continues on Friday before Ms Justice Burns and the jury of seven men and five women.

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