23 May 2022

Dispute over JCB, Hitachi and 'rubber duck' during Midlands assault trial

Tullamore Circuit courtroom

Trial of two men for serious assault continues at Tullamore Circuit Court

A builder who lost half a finger following a daylight attack in Edenderry told a defence barrister during a trial that he was making a petty argument during a discussion about a digger.

Keith Dunne, who was aged 34 on June 18, 2020 when a man struck him with what he then thought was a machete, got involved in a dispute with senior counsel John Shortt about the detail of his evidence and a statement he had previously given gardai.

Mr Shortt is representing Craig Connolly (30), Kinnefad, Edenderry, who denies assaulting Mr Dunne, causing him serious harm.

Mr Connolly also denies another charge alleging he assaulted Mr Dunne causing him harm, and a further one which alleges he possessed a pull saw, in a public place, intending to cause injury, incapacitate or intimidate another person.

When Mr Dunne was being cross-examined by Mr Shortt after giving his direct evidence about the assault he said he was certain that the man who attacked him was Mr Connolly, though he did say his attacker was wearing a Covid mask and a hood.

“Craig Connolly attacked me,” said Mr Dunne. “That is my answer. You can question me 1,000 times.”

Asked if his evidence was reliable, Mr Dunne replied “100%”.

Mr Shortt then put it to the witness that he had given a “different version” when interviewed by the guards on June 20, 2020.

Mr Shortt gave the example of Mr Dunne saying that his employer on the day, Peter McCormack, had been driving a JCB.

“It's a rubber duck, a JCB 360,” replied Mr Dunne, saying they were all diggers and were all classed under the same licence.

Mr Shortt told him the court was in the business of getting precise evidence and the machine in question was not a JCB.

“This is a petty, petty argument, it's a digger,” said Mr Dunne.

He accepted it was a Hitachi but said Mr McCormack also owned JCBs and told Mr Shortt it was a “digger”, a JCB or Hitachi, “whatever digger you want to call it.”

When Mr Shortt asked Mr Dunne if he was “trying to boss the jury”, the witness replied: “You're trying to boss me.”

Defence counsel then pointed to Mr Dunne that he had said in his direct evidence earlier that he had started work at 7.30am that day whereas he told the gardai he started the job at 2pm.

Mr Dunne replied that they had been working all day from 7.30am and accused Mr Shortt of “nitpicking”, to which counsel responded that he was trying to get the truth.

Mr Shortt also examined Mr Dunne on his evidence to the jury that the first words out of his mouth after the attack were that Craig Connolly was the man responsible.

He told the witness that when he was interviewed by the guards he did not name him until the end of his statement having earlier said: “Alls I could see was this male with a weapon.”

Mr Shortt also said that while Mr Dunne said in evidence at the trial that Mr McCormack had shouted at him just before the assault, that too had not been mentioned to the guards.

Mr Dunne said it could have been because he was in a state of shock on June 20 after having fingers hanging off and sewn back on.

Mr Shortt reminded him that in the early part of his statement to the gardai he had referred to a “male” swinging a weapon like a machete towards him, grazing his nose and then striking him on the left hand.

Mr Dunne said he told his boss right away who his attacker was. He knew Craig Connolly as the man who was at that time going out with Sophie Judge, the mother of his son.

Mr Dunne said Ms Judge had been with Mr Connolly first, and then with him from November 2016 6o July 2018.

The next witness for the prosecution, which was conducted by Kevin White, BL, was Mr McCormack who explained he was a subcontractor for the contractor carrying out work on the footpaths in Edenderry.

On June 18 he was working with Keith Dunne at JKL Street breaking the path opposite O'Connell Square.

“I was using a rubber duck, a small excavator, breaking concrete with a rock breaker,” said Mr McCormack.

While he was doing that Mr Dunne was holding a fence to block debris from the rock breaker going on the road and Mr McCormack said he saw “a chap running across the road”.

That person swung a knife or a blade over at the fencing hitting Mr Dunne twice, the second blow getting him on the hand.

Mr McCormack said the handle broke away from the blade and Keith Dunne fell across broken stones near steps on the path.

He recalled letting “a roar” at Keith when the man was coming. After the attack the other man got up and ran back where he came from.

Mr McCormack said he brought Mr Dunne to his van which was parked in the old Tesco yard off the street and they waited for an ambulance.

Shortly after beginning his cross examination of Mr McCormack, Mr Shortt asked him if wrote poetry.

When Mr McCormack told him he did not, Mr Shortt said his statement to the guards said he was “outside a house with a yellow door, just up the street from Bargains Galore” but it did not mention anything about him letting “a roar”.

Mr McCormack said it had happened very quickly and he did not know if Mr Dunne heard him or not because it was busy and noisy in the area.

The jury heard further evidence from gardai who arrived at the scene of the assault and others who spoke to Mr Dunne in hospital in Tullamore.

Garda Conor Shields gave evidence of placing a blade, a hard hat and high viz vest in sealed bags and Garda Saoirse Noonan said she saw a large amount of blood at the scene and she took a statement from Peter McCormack.

Garda Mark Shine said he spoke to Mr Dunne in the hospital and was told he'd been attacked with a a “double sided machete” by a male known to him as Craig Connolly.

Detective Garda Ivan Cunnane gave similar evidence, saying the man responsible was Craig Connolly from Edenderry.

A statement from a plastic surgeon at St James's Hospital Private Clinic, Marlese Dempsey, was read to the jury by Mr White in which she outlined how an initial exploration of Mr Dunne's hand was done under general anaesthetic and three of his fingers were found to have divisions of between 80 and 100%.

After a number of months the left ring finger had to be totally amputated and the surgeon's opinion was that the injuries sustained by Mr Dunne amounted to serious harm.

On Thursday the jury was shown video footage recorded by cameras at The Corner House pub, Bargains Galore, Finbarr Cullen's, Eden Decor and a private house on Col Perry Street.

The attention of the jury was drawn to the movements around the town of a white van and one of the images showed a registration number and an investigation revealed that the owner at the time was a man called Sean Dillon.

Mr Dillon, aged 42 and with an address at St Brigid's Road, Edenderry, is a co-accused in the trial and he denies a charge of assaulting Mr Dunne, causing him harm, along with another charge of causing Mr Dunne serious harm.

Mr White told the jury it would be the State's case that Mr Dillon acted in common design with Mr Connolly and aided or abetted the other accused man.

The trial continues on Friday, April 29.

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