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Man died in violent attack by neighbour, court told

A jury at the Central Criminal Court has heard a man in his 70s was killed in a violent attack by a neighbour just minutes after gardaí had left his home having responded to an early morning call from the pensioner.

Peter McDonald died from multiple catastrophic injuries sustained in an attack by his neighbour who was armed with a machete.

Patrick McDonagh, 52, from Whitechapel Road, Clonsilla, Dublin, has admitted manslaughter but denies a charge of murder. The jury was told Mr McDonagh had a history of mental illness and it will be asked to consider a special defence of diminished responsibility.

At the opening of the trial, prosecuting counsel Philipp Rahn told the jury that the two men were next door neighbours and until the day of the killing it appeared they had got on well.

He said Mr McDonald was described by neighbours as a quiet man who kept to himself. Mr McDonagh was someone who had suffered with mental health difficulties.

Mr Rahn said the jury would hear evidence that on 24 July 2020, Mr McDonagh was seen in his front garden at around 10.30pm, praying and making a racket and that he may have had something in his hand.

They jury will also hear that sometime after midnight he could be seen hopping over the wall and kicking a gate at his neighbour’s house and “shouting and roaring”. At 3am he was seen shouting and being aggressive and making threats to Mr McDonald who phoned gardai at 4.20am, Mr Rahn said.

The jury was told gardaí called to Mr McDonald’s home and stayed with him for 15 minutes before leaving just before 5.50am.

Very shortly afterwards neighbours heard screaming and crying for help outside and will say they saw Mr McDonald lying on the ground at the side of his house covered in blood.

Mr McDonagh was seen standing in the immediate vicinity armed with a machete and making striking motions in the direction of where his neighbour was lying.

Neighbours who called 999 saw the accused man go back into his home while the cries and calls for help from Mr McDonald fell silent, Mr Rahn said.

Mr Rahn said it was not clear precisely how, where or why the attack started, but the jury would hear forensic evidence from Mr McDonald’s house where a considerable amount of blood was found in the bathroom and the hallway.

Mr Rahn said the incident ended up outside where Mr McDonald’s body was found in a pool of blood.

Gardaí returned to the scene very quickly having left only ten or 15 minutes earlier and when they saw Mr McDonald’s body it was clear he had catastrophic injuries and there was no sign of life.

The jury will hear evidence of a post-mortem examination, which revealed he had suffered multiple traumatic chop wounds, stab wounds and incisive wounds as well as fractured bones.

Gardaí were told that Mr McDonagh had been seen retreating into his house at number 18 and the Garda Armed Support Unit arrived along with garda negotiators who were in contact with Mr McDonagh who observed his behaviour as “unusual and odd”, Mr Rahn said.

Another man who had been a friend and carer was also in phone contact with Mr McDonagh in an attempt to persuade him to come out. Amid concern by gardaí a decision was made at 11.35pm to breach the premises and for gardaí to enter and take Mr McDonagh out.

He was subdued and removed from the house before being arrested and taken to Blanchardstown Garda Station where he was seen by doctors and given medication.

A number of items were retrieved from the house including a blood stained machete and a knife, the court was told.

Mr Rahn told the jury “the prosecution say this is a case of murder plain and simple” but the defence has pleaded guilty to manslaughter and will raise the defence of diminished responsibility.

He said the issue the jury will have to grapple with is whether or not it is a murder or manslaughter and in this case they would be asked to consider the special defence of manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility which is provided for by the Criminal Law Insanity Act.

However, he said it was the prosecution’s case that due to the nature of the injuries the accused intended to kill or cause serious harm which are the elements required to prove a charge of murder.

A witness in the case, Catriona Byrne, who lives nearby told the court she saw Mr McDonagh in his garden the night before the killing “roaring and shouting” outside his own home. She also said he was praying and a blessing himself and was “fighting with himself” and she heard him say “just don’t come back I’ll get you”.

She said at one point he was standing with his arms folded in his garden and looked like he was guarding his home.

She said had a machete in one hand and a bottle in the other but agreed with defence counsel John Fitzgerald that she did not know what was in the bottle. She agreed that while his behaviour was unusual it was common for him and she had seen him praying in his garden before.

She also agreed with defence counsel that she had described Mr McDonald as “crazy”.

The trial before Mr Justice Michael McGrath and a jury is expected to last two weeks.

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