A Polish man intended to murder a man in Co Mayo when he reached for a knife and “plunged” it into his stomach, a prosecution barrister has told a trial jury.
However, the accused man told gardaí in his interviews that he believed his life was in danger when he grabbed a kitchen knife and stabbed the deceased “in his own defence”.
Matusz Batiuk (33), formerly of Carrabeg Estate, Swinford in Co Mayo, has pleaded not guilty to murdering Michael McDonagh (24) at the housing estate in Swinford on November 16th, 2020.
Opening the prosecution’s case on Monday, Desmond Dockery SC said the court will hear evidence that Polish national Mr Batiuk had lived for the previous two years at Carrabeg Estate, which was temporary accommodation provided to him by Mayo County Council.
The estate consisted of nine small houses and Mr Batiuk was unemployed, the trial heard.
Outlining the facts of the case, Mr Dockery said Mr Batiuk had moved to Ireland from Poland with his mother and brother in 2006 or 2007 and originally settled in Ballina.
The barrister said Mr McDonagh was 24 when he was fatally injured by Mr Batiuk. Mr McDonagh was the youngest of ten children and he and his sister were fostered by their uncle and his wife, he added.
The prosecution barrister went on to tell the court that Mr McDonagh left school at 16, was unemployed when he died, and was living on and off with his foster sister and friends.
On the day of the killing, Mr Dockery said Mr McDonagh had travelled by to meet his friend, Paul Maughan. At 10pm that day, Mr McDonagh and Mr Maughan called into a Chinese fast food premises before they walked the short distance to the accused’s estate.
They brought alcohol with them and were invited into Mr Batiuk’s one-bedroom bungalow. Mr McDonagh was intoxicated at the time and the three men sat in the sitting room.
Detailing the evidence that will be heard, Mr Dockery said Mr Batiuk made a call to Emergency Call Answering Services (ECAS) at 10.51pm that night and it was forwarded to gardaí.
The call-taker had difficulty establishing the location of the house with Mr Batiuk, the court heard. In the first call, Mr Batiuk named Mr Maughan as the man that was messing with him and trying to fight him and the caller-taker told him gardaí would be sent.
At 10.57pm, a second call was made by Mr Batiuk, who said he had stabbed a man in his house in his own defence and that the knife he had used was still in his hand. “This time he named Mr McDonagh who he said was bleeding,” counsel said.
Mr Dockery told the jury that the recordings of both calls would be played to them. “You will hear Paul Maughan in the background as he reacts to what occurred in the second call,” the lawyer said.
When gardaí arrived after 11pm, they found Mr Batiuk standing behind a table and he had picked up a large knife. “He was instructed to put it back down and did so,” he said.
The barrister said Mr Maughan, who had blood coming from both his thumbs, was intoxicated and in a hysterical state. There will be evidence, Mr Dockery said, of what Mr Batiuk said to gardaí and what was said by Mr Maughan.
Mr McDonagh, who was lying on the floor of the kitchenette, was unresponsive. He had a weak pulse and was bleeding heavily. An ambulance arrived but they were unable to resuscitate Mr McDonagh.
The court will also hear that Mr Batiuk told gardaí in his interviews that the three of them were in the sitting of the house when an argument or discussion developed and “Mr McDonagh had volunteered to hurt Mr Batiuk if Mr Maughan wanted him to do so”.
The accused said Mr McDonagh began walking towards him and was putting his fist into his hand in a threatening way. Mr Batiuk said he retreated to the kitchen and grabbed a knife but Mr McDonagh kept coming towards him. He said he believed his life was in danger and stabbed Mr McDonagh in the stomach.
Mr McDonagh’s death was caused by a single stab wound to a depth of at least 12cm. He also experienced rapid fatal blood loss and was intoxicated.
There were no defence-related wounds on the deceased’s body, counsel said, and the deceased’s blood was on the blade of the knife.
Mr Dockery said expert evidence from a consultant psychiatrist would be that Mr Batiuk was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2008, adding they would hear evidence about “whether this may have had a bearing on matters”.
The lawyer explained that the State’s case would be that this was an unlawful killing which was murder and that Mr McDonagh’s death was not caused accidentally and not in legitimate self-defence. “The accused admitted to gardaí he stabbed Michael McDonagh so that won’t be in dispute,” he said.
Mr Dockery said the prosecution maintains that when Mr Batiuk reached for the knife and “plunged” it into Mr McDonagh’s lower abdomen, it was done with the intention of murder.
“Intention does not require premeditation, intention can be formed in an instant,” he concluded.
The trial continues on Tuesday before Ms Justice Mary Ellen Ring and a jury of nine men and three women. It is expected to last two weeks.