by Fiona Magennis
Murder accused Matusz Batiuk told gardaí “I did what I did to defend myself” and said he never meant to kill Michael McDonagh when he stabbed him once in the stomach, the Central Criminal Court has heard.
The accused said Mr McDonagh and his friend Paul Maughan had been acting like the “Gestapo” in the accused’s home and when asked why he did not run, told gardaí: “It was my house, I don’t have to run from my house.”
The accused said he thought Mr McDonagh “was going to kill me” adding: “I didn’t want to die”.
Mr Batiuk (33) formerly of Carrabeg Estate, Swinford in Co Mayo, has pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr McDonagh (24) at a housing estate in Swinford on November 16th, 2020.
The jury previously heard Mr McDonagh’s death was caused by a single stab wound to a depth of at least 12cm. He experienced rapid fatal blood loss and was intoxicated at the time.
In garda interviews which took place at Castlebar Garda Station the day after Mr Batiuk’s arrest, the accused told investigating detectives: “I was only defending myself, I didn’t want to kill him. I didn’t want to kill anyone.”
He added: “I was very frightened, and I thought he was going to kill me.”
“I was defending myself, but I could die too, I didn’t want to die.”
Detective Garda Sinead Caheny told Desmond Dockery SC, prosecuting, that she arrested Mr Batiuk at the scene and when cautioned he replied: “I stabbed him Sinead. I did it in self-defence”.
Detective Sergeant Michael Doherty told Mr Dockery he was part of a team who conducted a total of four interviews with Mr Batiuk on November 17th, 2020 at Castlebar Garda Station.
He said during the first interview, the accused was asked what his understanding of assault causing harm was and said he took it to mean he had “hurt someone”.
The accused added: “I understand, but I don’t believe I’m guilty”.
Detective Doherty said Mr Batiuk then read from a pre-prepared, handwritten statement.
Bottles of wine
In the statement, Mr Batiuk said Paul Maughan and Michael McDonagh had come over to his house with bottles of wine.
The accused said he had two small teacups of wine with them and during the course of the conversation, the two men accused him of sleeping with Mr Maughan’s sister.
He said the two men were shouting and “I was scared of them”.
He said Michael then said to Paul: “If you want me to, I’ll hurt him for you”.
Mr Batiuk told gardaí Mr Maughan then said “hurt him”. He said Mr McDonagh followed him into the kitchen and was hitting his hand into his fist “in a threatening manner”.
“I was very frightened, and I thought he was going to kill me,” he said.
He said he saw a knife and picked it up as Mr McDonagh kept coming forward towards him.
The accused said he was sure Mr McDonagh was going to kill him.
He said he told him to stop and then “I stabbed him in the stomach to keep him from killing me”.
When the interviewing officers tried to question Mr Batiuk further about his pre-prepared statement, he said: “I do not want to talk. I refer to my statement.”
Asked to estimate what time the events had occurred at, he said he could not remember.
“I’m trying to say that everything that I told you in my statement is fact. Time is irrelevant. I was only defending myself; I didn’t want to kill him. I didn’t want to kill anyone.”
On the run
He said he stabbed Mr McDonagh in the stomach “to make him back off”.
“I did it to defend myself. I rang the guards. I stabbed person.”
Asked how he felt afterwards, Mr Batiuk said he felt “sad, bad” and “sorry”.
He said following the stabbing he could have run and “been on the run my whole life” but instead he had stayed.
The court also heard Mr Batiuk demonstrated to gardaí how he stabbed Mr McDonagh. Det Sgt Doherty said the accused told him he was standing up with his left hand extended and his palm out in a “stop gesture” while holding the knife in his right hand.
Mr Batiuk said Mr McDonagh kept coming “closer, closer, closer”. The accused said he stabbed him “only once” in the stomach.
“I didn’t try to kill him. I tried to hurt him and go home, to stop him.”
He said he was “very sorry” for what happened.
“I did what I did to defend myself,” he added.
The court heard Mr Batiuk also told gardaí that Mr McDonagh had a knife in his pocket.
Asked to describe the knife, he said it was a “blue carpet knife”.
He told the detectives: “I did it to defend myself. I did not want to kill him, just to stop him. If I stab him in the neck, he would be dead straight away you get me?”
When asked by gardaí why he hadn’t run away and left through one of three doors that were in proximity in the area where the stabbing occurred, Mr Batiuk said: “If I run from my house, they wait for me there. It was my house, I don’t have to run from my house.”
During a fourth and final interview, Mr Batiuk claimed Mr Maughan and Mr McDonagh had been acting like “Gestapos” and like “Nazis”.
Mr Batiuk said: “I see them, I feel them. They try to kill them in my body. I see that, I see the Gestapo coming back like a signal.”
Asked what he meant by that, the accused said: “A signal in my head I mean.”
The trial continues on Monday before Ms Justice Mary Ellen Ring and a jury of nine men and three women.