Mountrath resident's murder trial hears details of the stabbing that caused death

Court Reporter

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murder

Criminal Courts of Justice Dublin

The murder trial of a Laois resident has heard that a father-of-one died from a stab wound which penetrated the left side of his chest to a depth of over 25cm, a murder trial has heard. 

The jury also heard that the level of force involved in the stab wound was moderate and the deceased's left arm had to be raised in order for this wound to be inflicted.

Deputy State Pathologist, Dr Michael Curtis, gave evidence on Thursday in the Central Criminal Court trial of Inga Ozolina.

Ms Ozolina (48), originally from Latvia, but with an address at Old Court Church, Mounthrath, Co Laois has pleaded not guilty to murdering her boyfriend Audrius Pukas (40) at The Malthouse, Roscrea, Co Tipperary, on November 20, 2016.

The trial has previously heard that the accused and deceased were in a “tempestuous and volatile relationship” which was “violent at times” and the prosecution contends there is “no question of self-defence” in the case.

Evidence has also been given that Ms Ozolina went to a garda station in the early hours of the morning and said that she had killed her boyfriend, telling a garda: “I stabbed him. I pushed the knife into him, come quick". 

Dr Curtis told prosecution counsel Paul Murray SC that he did not attend the scene but had examined Mr Pukas' body at University Hospital Limerick. 

The witness testified that the deceased was found lying on his back in a downstairs bedroom at The Malthouse and was wearing only his underpants at the time. He was six foot in height and had a muscular build, he explained. 

In his evidence, Dr Curtis said that part of Mr Pukas' face was blood-stained, as were his upper limbs, the left side of his trunk and his front left thigh. 

There were three stab wounds to Mr Pukas' body and it was not possible to determine which had occurred first, remarked Dr Curtis. 

The first stab wound was situated on the left side of the deceased's chest, 5cm below his armpit, he explained, adding that it was 18.5cm to the left of his midline. The anterior border of the wound was of "sharp contour", he said, indicating that a blade with a single cutting edge had been used. 

The blade had wounded the rib cage area, the left lung, the heart, the aortic valve, the left main coronary artery and the aorta, he outlined.

The total depth of the wound was 25.5cm and as a result, there was a “massive collection” of blood in the left chest cavity and into the sack around the heart.

Death would have ensued rapidly from this wound, he added.

Dr Curtis said he found a second stab wound to the left side of Mr Pukas' chest and it was located 11.5cm below the left armpit. The wound was "very superficial" and looked like it was caused by the pointed edge of a knife, he said, adding that it did not penetrate the muscle.

The third stab wound was situated on the outer aspect of the right upper arm and was 14cm below the right shoulder, noted Dr Curtis. The depth of the wound was 13cm and there was no injury to the upper arm bone.

The first stab wound was fatal in nature, indicated the witness.

The court also heard that the deceased’s body had “numerous abrasions and bruises” consistent with him being involved in a “fracas”.

Mr Pukas also had extensive “reddish bruising” to the right side of his face and there was bruising to his lower lip which could have been caused by a minor blow to the region of the mouth, he said.

The deceased may have remained mobile for a short period of time after sustaining his injuries, he said. 

In conclusion, Dr Curtis said Mr Pukas’ cause of death was a stab wound to the chest.

A toxicology report showed there was “modest levels” of alcohol in his blood and urine, he said.

Under cross-examination by Caroline Biggs SC, defending, Dr Curtis agreed that the numerous bruises and abrasions to Mr Pukas’ body could have occurred immediately prior to the incident or “in one or more stages leading up” to this event.

Dr Curtis also agreed with counsel that Mr Pukas had a history of atopic eczema and severe eczema can lead to scratching of the skin.

The Deputy State Pathologist further agreed that Mr Pukas could have made his way from an upstairs kitchen to a downstairs bedroom following the stabbing.

Ms Biggs put it to the witness that her client said in interviews with gardai that she had tried to engage in First Aid and there was nothing that could confirm or deny that. “Yes,” replied Dr Curtis.

The witness also agreed with the defence counsel that individually the abrasions and bruises were “trivial” in nature as they were surface injuries with no internal damage.

Bruising to the deceased’s right ring knuckle was consistent with a blow having been struck, the court heard.

Dr Curtis accepted that the first stab wound could have occurred very quickly and involved very rapid movements. The level of force was moderate and the left arm had to be raised in order for this wound to be inflicted, he concluded. 

The trial continues tomorrow afternoon (Friday) before Mr Justice Alexander Owens and a jury of seven men and five women.