18 Aug 2022

Murder accused told detectives he wanted to kill 37-year-old man once he started stabbing him

Murder accused told detectives he wanted to kill 37-year-old man once he started stabbing him

A murder accused told detectives that he wanted to kill a 37-year-old man once he started stabbing him, the Central Criminal Court has heard. 

The jury has heard that Darren Houlden told gardai in his initial interview that he "went for" the deceased's brain with a knife after he said the victim threatened him that "gangsters" would shoot him over missing cocaine. The defendant said the devil "took him over" and he was like a "lunatic" when he attacked the victim with the knife. 

Evidence has been given that Mr Houlden drove to Arklow Garda Station covered in blood at around 12.35am on the morning of May 6, where he handed a "bloodied knife" to the member-in-charge at the hatch of the public office and told him: "It's my fault. I attacked him. It's all on me." 

The jurors spent today listening to the remaining garda interviews in the trial of Mr Houlden (44), who is charged with murdering Stephen "Apples" Kavanagh in the early hours of Monday, May 6, 2019. 

Mr Houlden with an address at The Crescent, Meadowvale, Arklow, Co Wicklow has pleaded not (NOT) guilty to murder but guilty to the manslaughter of Mr Kavanagh at the same location. His plea was not accepted by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and he is on trial at the Central Criminal Court. 

In his interviews at Arklow Garda Station on May 6 and 7, Mr Houlden told gardai that he grew up in Shankill and had worked in the printing trade after leaving school in 1993. In 2009, he moved to Arklow with his parents, he said. 

When asked by detectives about his drug use, Mr Houlden said he started out taking "LSD" and when he got into the "club scene" he began consuming ecstasy, which he got "a liking" for. The accused said he started smoking heroin in 1999 and was "using" two or three times a week. He described himself as a "functioning addict" to gardai as he was "holding down" a job at the time. In 2003, Mr Houlden said he went on a methadone programme in Pearse Street and later went to the Tiglin Residential Treatment Centre in Ashford, Co Wicklow for a year. 

Explaining the events of May 6 and 7, Mr Houlden said he went for a drive on the Saturday afternoon and bumped into "Apples", whom he had not seen in about a year. "I saw him on the street and I pulled in. I told him I had a free house and invited him to the house," he said. The defendant said Mr Kavanagh had given him cocaine and "kept saying" that he [the accused] did not have to pay for it. Mr Houlden said he had taken "three different forms of crack cocaine'" over the weekend, one which he described as very strong. 

When the cocaine went missing on Sunday evening, Mr Houlden said Mr Kavanagh phoned a named man. "He [Mr Kavanagh] was telling him to get people out to my house as the stuff had gone missing," said the accused.

The defendant said he was scared and got a silver stainless steel knife, which he used to peel apples, from the hall table or kitchen. "If I had to use it I would, I didn't want anyone coming through my door. I remember he told me earlier that these people were dangerous, I was terrified," he said, adding that he had put an axe at his front door for protection.

Mr Houlden said he saw Mr Kavanagh make a second phone call to someone when he was standing on the landing in his house. The accused said he then took the knife out of his pocket and "stabbed down and down" on Mr Kavanagh. He said the deceased tried to get up after the first "blow" and "a scuffle" ensued between the two of them. 

Mr Houlden said the deceased man "managed" to get the knife off him at one stage but then the [the accused] got it back. The defendant explained that he eventually got Mr Kavanagh on the ground and stabbed him around the ear, telling gardai: "I didn't want to kill him". 

He continued: "I was very afraid that people were going to come to my door and blame me for something I didn't do. I was intending to kill him and then I stopped. I was thinking I can't do this. I had to stop him from making the phone call. I didn't want my family's safety at risk, he had threatened my family."

Mr Houlden agreed with gardai that he had overreacted to the incident but insisted that he had to protect himself and his family. "It's an overreaction but these lads were coming to my house with a shooter. I was not going to be on the hook for Stephen for drug money he owed," he said. The accused stressed the allegation that Mr Kavanagh threatening his family had "set" him off saying: "Even after I attacked him I think I hit him again and said why did you have to threaten my family." 

When shown a photo of the knife by gardai, Mr Houlden noted that the tip of the knife was definitely not damaged before he attacked the deceased. 

The accused said he had "begged" Mr Kavanagh not to ring anyone. "Once I started the attack, if I stopped I was dead. He would have pulled a hit on me," he said. 

When gardai told the accused that the post-mortem showed that Mr Kavanagh had been stabbed over 30 times, Mr Houlden said: "Jesus and I said seven to ten times." "Once I started to stab him I wanted to kill him," he said, adding that he was sorry for what he had done. 

Former Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis has testified that Mr Kavanagh died after receiving "around 40 knife wounds" to the head, neck and face, which included the slicing of the right jugular vein and the thyroid artery, which cut the pharynx in the victim's throat.

Mr Kavanagh's girlfriend, Rachel Kearney, who was the third person in the house on the night, has given evidence that she saw the accused "slaughtering" and "over-killing" her boyfriend. The witness said that Mr Houlden was on top of her partner and had his knees on his back as he stabbed the victim. 

The trial continues tomorrow before Ms Justice Carmel Stewart and a jury of eight men and four women. 

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