01 Jul 2022

Naas murder trial witnesses tell Central Criminal Court that young group had on-street stand-off with man carrying baseball bat

Naas murder trial witnesses tell Central Criminal Court that young group had on-street stand-off with man carrying baseball bat

Central Criminal Court, Dublin

A witness in the trial of a man accused of murdering a 20-year-old man in Naas, Co Kildare, has told the Central Criminal Court of a "stand-off" between a group of young people and a male carrying a baseball bat on the night of the killing.

Several witnesses today (FRIDAY) gave evidence in the trial of Zoltan Almasi, a Serbian-born man living in Naas who is accused of murdering Joseph 'Jo Jo' Dunne in the Kildare town in May 2014.

Mr Almasi (49) of Harbour View, Naas, has pleaded not guilty at the Central Criminal Court to the murder of Mr Dunne but guilty to his manslaughter on the night of May 16, 2014, at Harbour View, Naas.

The incident happened after a group of young people met up at the Abbey Bridge in Naas on the night, before moving towards Harbour View in the town.

The court has heard that Mr Dunne either "jostled" or "punched" a van belonging to Mr Almasi who then emerged from his home and chased Mr Dunne with a baseball bat shortly after 10.15pm.

Prosecution witness Natasha Kelly said that she was in her apartment with her partner watching television on the night of the killing when she heard a bang and shouting from outside.

Ms Kelly, whose evidence was read into the court by Maddie Grant BL, for the DPP, said that when she looked out of her window, she could see a man lying on the ground in the street with his feet pointing in the direction of the canal.

The witness said she could see three males and two females at the scene with one of the females trying to resuscitate the man on the ground.

Ms Kelly said in her statement that she could see a "heavy guy who kept pulling his T-shirt over his face" and that he kept repeating "I can't go over, I can't look at him".

Another witness Kristina Augonaiskene told Ms Grant that she was in her apartment also at Harbour View, when she heard "shouting and screaming" and "very scary noises" at around 10pm on the night and that one male she heard was shouting "you break my car".

Ms Augonaiskene told counsel that when she looked out of her sitting room window, she saw a man lying on the ground. She then went outside and said that she saw "one guy and one girl" on the street with another on the phone and was told that an ambulance had been called.

Catherine Fisher told the court that she was standing outside the Vie de Chateaux restaurant at Harbour View on the night when she saw "a group of young people running by". Ms Fisher said that she thought they were "wound up, shouting and that it was not just normal messing".

In her evidence to the court, Ms Fisher told Caroline Biggs SC, prosecuting, that the group were close enough for her to decide to go back inside the restaurant but said that the group seemed to be running from something. She said she did not see who was chasing them.

After returning inside the restaurant and getting the bill, Ms Fisher said she then left the premises about 10 or 15 minutes later and that her friend went over to a man lying on the ground next to two crying girls. She said she observed another young male kicking a car.

Maureen O'Neill said that she was also in the restaurant and that her friend, Ms Fisher, had returned from outside to tell her that there had been an altercation outside.

Ms O'Neill told the prosecution that she saw a young male on the ground with another "quite distressed" young male standing nearby and that there had been "banging and thumping" on the roof of a car by this male.

Ronan Flood and Maria Flood were also in the restaurant on the night and both told counsel that they went from the restaurant to their car, which was parked across the road, directly opposite the restaurant.

Mr Flood said that when in the car he saw one male and a group of young people on the street having an argument with each other and that the male had a baseball bat in his hand before everyone ran away and that the incident was "over in a flash".

Ms Flood said that she and her husband got into the car and that she turned off the lights to not draw attention to herself or her husband. She said she could hear a member of the young group say to the male with the bat, "you have a bat", to which the male had replied, "you broke my car".

The witness said that she saw the male with the baseball bat and that he held it "down by his side, in his left hand". The Floods then left and went to Naas Garda Station to tell gardaí of what they had seen.

Defence counsel for Mr Almasi, Barra McGrory SC, asked Ms Flood if what she had seen outside the restaurant on the street while she was in the car could be described as a "stand off", to which she agreed. 

Another diner Michael Leonard told Ms Biggs that he saw people running from the Harbour end of the street outside the restaurant and that he saw a male chasing one of the group.

Mr Leonard said that when he next came out of the restaurant that he could see people "crying and roaring" and that there was someone on the floor. The witness said that another diner said to him that they believed that someone had been hit with a baseball bat.

Mr McGrory put it to Mr Leonard that, in his statement to gardaí, he said he heard one of the younger males say "I'm going to kill him" and that he saw one of the girls hold that male back, which Mr Leonard accepted.

The trial before Mr Justice Michael White continues on Tuesday at the Central Criminal Court.

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