17 Aug 2022

Man (21) convicted of fatal stabbing 'should have listened to his mother'

Man (21) convicted of fatal stabbing should have listened to his mother Kerry Waterford Tipperary Dublin

Man (21) convicted of fatal stabbing 'should have listened to his mother'

A 21-year-old who stabbed another man to death should have listened to his mother and stayed at home, a judge at the Central Criminal Court said on Monday. 

Justice Tony Hunt was hearing evidence during a sentence hearing for Blake Sweeney of Fertha Drive, Cahersiveen, Kerry, who was convicted in July of the manslaughter of Robert Elston (33) of Lisselton at Fertha Drive on May 23, 2018.

Justice Hunt said the tragedy of Mr Elston's death could have been avoided if Sweeney had listened to his mother who told him not to leave the house after the deceased set fire to a car in the Sweeney family's driveway. Justice Hunt said: "He should have listened to his mother... She could see there was no need for it. Mr Elston made poor decisions in setting things off but Mr Sweeney pursued him down the road with tragic consequences."

The court also heard that Mr Elston's father was stabbed to death in an unrelated incident years earlier. 

Detective Garda Bat Lynch told prosecution counsel Tim O'Leary SC that the deceased came to Sweeney's home on the evening of May 23 and set fire to Mr Sweeney's brother's car. Sweeney, who had been asleep, woke up when the fire started and would later tell gardai that Mr Elston was outside shouting and holding an axe.

Sweeney and his brother put out the fire while Mr Elston went to another house in Fertha Drive. Sweeney arrived at the same house a short time later armed with a knife. He banged on the door and demanded entry, Garda Lynch said. A woman who was living there at the time let him in.

Garda Lynch agreed with Mr O'Leary that a fight started in the sitting room of the house that ended with the death of Mr Elston. He agreed that the accused had said from the outset that Mr Elston had an axe during the fight and an axe was found in the house which had Sweeney's DNA on it. Justice Hunt said one of the bases to justify a manslaughter verdict was that the jury found it reasonably possible that the deceased was armed with an axe. He added: "If it wasn't for the fact that an axe was produced there was so little justification [for Sweeney pursuing Elston with a knife] that murder would have been likely."
Deputy State Pathologist Dr Linda Mulligan told the trial that the cause of death was two stab wounds and in particular noted one to Mr Elston's back that entered to a depth of 18cm (six inches) and severed the aorta.

Following the death Sweeney led gardai to an eight-inch "butcher" knife which he said he took from his house and used to stab Mr Elston. Sweeney had dropped it in an alleyway after leaving the scene but immediately pointed out its location when gardai arrived. Garda Lynch agreed with defence counsel Mark Nicholas SC that Sweeney appeared genuinely remorseful and shocked at what had happened. He gave his version of events when gardai arrived and offered to plead guilty to manslaughter but the Director of Public Prosecutions refused to accept the plea.

Garda Lynch added that Sweeney has 22 previous convictions, all at district court level. Six were for burglary and two for theft.

The deceased's brother David Elston wrote an impact statement in which he said his brother had been a devoted father. His son did not leave his father's side for the first five years of his life, he said. He added: "They weren't just father and son, they were best friends. The bond between them would make me so happy." He described the family's devastation since his death and the toll it has taken on their mother who now seldom leaves her bedroom. The deceased had a caring and loving bond with all his family but following their father's death from a stabbing he made "poor decisions" and began drinking and using drugs, he said.

He added: "But he would give you his last ten euro or help a neighbour to throw turf or just be an ear to listen."
Mr Nicholas asked Justice Hunt to consider his client's early offer to plead guilty to manslaughter and that the deceased was carrying an axe. He said his previous convictions were not an aggravating factor and added: "This was a case of two reasonably good, decent people making stupid decisions." Justice Hunt responded: "If they both had their time over none of this would happen."

Justice Hunt said he would have to take into account that Sweeney took a knife to the scene but he would also consider that the deceased had an axe. He added that he would look at court decisions relating to David Mahon, who was sentenced to seven years having been convicted of manslaughter for stabbing 23-year-old Dean Fitzpatrick to death in 2013. Justice Hunt said this "seems to be the same sort of situation".

He adjourned sentencing until November 11.

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