A key witness in a murder trial, who told gardaí that the accused man “went for” the deceased with a knife, has now told a Central Criminal Court jury that he did not witness the fatal stabbing, while also admitting he broke into the accused's home and stabbed him months before.
On Wednesday, Paul Maughan, a resident of Newpark, Swinford, Co Mayo, gave evidence that the deceased man, Michael McDonagh (24), had a carpet knife with him when they went to the home of Matusz Batiuk (33) on the day of the stabbing.
The jury also heard that Mr Maughan is currently serving a prison sentence for stabbing Mr Batiuk in his home, three months before Mr McDonagh’s death.
Mr Batiuk, formerly of Carrabeg Estate, Swinford, Co Mayo, has pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr McDonagh at the housing estate in Swinford on November 16th, 2020.
The jury previously heard that the accused said he believed his life was in danger and stabbed Mr McDonagh in the stomach.
Mr McDonagh's death was caused by a single stab wound to a depth of at least 12cm. He experienced rapid fatal blood loss and was intoxicated at the time.
Garda Sergeant Thomas McIntyre gave evidence to Desmond Dockery SC, prosecuting, that when he attended at the scene, he found Mr Maughan standing outside Mr Batiuk’s residence with a considerable amount of blood on his trousers and cuts to the tops of his thumbs.
He said he entered the dwelling and found Mr McDonagh lying on his back on the kitchen floor with blood around him.
He said Mr Maughan made a short statement at the Garda station, in which he said the accused, who Mr Maughan referred to as 'Matthew', became agitated and “went for” Mr McDonagh and Mr Maughan with a knife.
Sgt McIntyre said Mr Maughan told him he tried to protect himself, resulting in the injuries to his hands.
The witness confirmed to counsel for the defence, Vincent Heneghan SC, that in this statement, Mr Maughan said: “Matthew went for Michael, and then he went for me.
"He had a knife in his right hand. I pushed him away but got my thumbs cut by him. He went for Michael with the knife; he got him down and tried to do him, stab him.”
Mr Maughan gave evidence to Mr Dockery that on November 16th, 2020, he and Mr McDonagh went for a few drinks at a licenced premises before they went to Mr Maughan’s house.
He said Mr McDonagh had a bottle of vodka and a bottle of Lucozade with him, and was “a little bit drunk”. He said they shared some more drinks at his house before they went to the accused’s residence, where he and Mr McDonagh continued drinking but Mr Batiuk did not drink.
He said they went back to the accused’s house, where Mr Maughan was unable to open a bottle of wine.
“I was trying to put my fingers down onto the cork and the bottle broke, so I got two cuts on my hand,” Mr Maughan said.
Mr Dockery asked him whether he had anything sharp in his hand, to which the witness replied that he had a knife.
“I was using the knife to put down the cork,” he said, adding that the cuts he suffered were caused by the bottle breaking.
The witness went on to say that Mr McDonagh also had a knife. “It was a carpet knife. He showed it to me at my home and put it into his pocket,” he said.
“I went into the bathroom to wash the blood off my hands and when I came out, Matusz was at the door. He said, ‘Go home,’ and I said, ‘I’m not going without Michael.’
“The kitchen door was shut. Matusz made a call to the guards outside the front door and the guards came then,” Mr Maughan said.
Mr Dockery asked him when he had realised what had happened to Mr McDonagh, to which Mr Maughan replied: “The next day.”
“Did you see Matusz stabbing Michael?” asked Mr Dockery. “No,” replied the witness.
"When the gardaí arrived, did you know why?” Mr Dockery asked, to which Mr Maughan again replied no.
Mr Dockery put it to him that Sgt McIntyre had told the jury that the witness made a statement to gardaí and later returned to the Garda station to say that he could not remember what happened as he was a bit drunk.
“Is that your evidence today?” asked Mr Dockery. Mr Maughan replied that it was.
In cross-examination for the defence, Mr Heneghan put to Mr Maughan that he had made “many inaccuracies” in his evidence.
He asked the witness if he recalled an angry conversation that took place in the house, in which Mr Maughan was angry with Mr Batiuk because he accused him of sleeping with Mr Maughan’s sister.
“You were angry and threatening to Mr Batiuk,” said defence counsel. “No, that didn’t happen,” replied Mr Maughan.
“Mr McDonagh said to you, ‘If you want me to, I’ll hurt him for you,’ and you said, ‘Hurt him’,” said Mr Heneghan. Mr Maughan denied this.
Mr Heneghan said the accused told gardaí that Mr McDonagh came towards him and so he stabbed him. Mr Maughan denied this.
Defence counsel next said that Mr Batiuk had made a call to gardaí looking for assistance on the night, as he said that Mr Maughan was fighting with him. Mr Maughan denied this.
Mr Heneghan referred to the witness’s statement to gardaí in which he said that when he and Mr McDonagh walked into the house, the accused “went for” Mr McDonagh and then “went for” Mr Maughan.
He asked Mr Maughan if Mr Batiuk had actually gone for him, to which the witness replied: “No.”
“Any reason why you would say that to the guards?” asked defence counsel. “No,” replied Mr Maughan.
“You said you tried to protect yourself and pushed him away and that was how you got your thumbs cut. That was a big lie?” said Mr Heneghan. “Yeah,” replied the witness. “I done it with the wine.”
Mr Heneghan asked him if the accused had any reason to fear Mr Maughan, to which the witness replied he did not.
“You’re now serving a prison sentence – what for?” asked Mr Heneghan. “For stabbing Matthew,” replied Mr Maughan.
He confirmed that he had stabbed Mr Batiuk in August 2020. He said he broke into his house and stabbed him in the side. He confirmed that he stabbed him twice with a butter knife and then picked up another knife and stabbed him in the ribs.
“He wouldn’t let you in, and you broke in and stabbed him. Do you still maintain he has no reason to fear you?” the defence asked. “Yeah,” replied the witness.
Mr Dockery questioned the witness again on behalf of the prosecution. He said that Mr Batiuk had called gardaí on the night of November 16th to say that Mr Maughan was “messing or fighting with him”.
Mr Maughan denied that he was fighting with the accused that night and said that Mr McDonagh was not fighting with him either.
Evidence was also given by Dr Blaise Brunker GP, who confirmed to Mr Dockery that he examined Mr Maughan at Swinford Garda Station on November 17th and noted a laceration on each of Mr Maughan’s thumbs.
He said that Mr Maughan told him the wounds had been caused by a knife and he had been defending himself.
“I was under the impression he was influenced by an intoxicant, possibly alcohol or possibly something else,” said Dr Brunker.
He told Mr Dockery that it was his opinion that the lacerations on Mr Maughan’s thumbs were caused by a knife.
The trial continues on Thursday before Ms Justice Mary Ellen Ring and a jury of nine men and three women.