A 40-year-old man has been convicted of murdering a Polish man in Ennis last year.
Michael Maughan (40) of Stone Court, Ennis had pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to the manslaughter of Piotr Nowakowski (31) at Sandfield Mews, Ennis on July 23, 2013.
The Central Criminal Court was told the manslaughter plea was not acceptable to the prosecution and a jury was sworn in for the one-week trial.
Maughan had also pleaded not guilty to assaulting Declan O’Dea at the same address on the same date.
On this Friday afternoon, the jury of seven men and five women found him guilty on both counts by unanimous decision after two hours and 23 minutes.
Mr Justice Paul Carney handed down the mandatory life sentence for the murder to run concurrently, with four years for the assault on Mr O’Dea.
He backdated both sentences to July 24, 2013 for time spent in custody.
Mr Nowakowski was stabbed twice and died in an ambulance on the way to Shannon Airport where he was to be airlifted to hospital in Cork.
The court heard that Maughan and his brother had been drinking with the men in the apartment in the Sandfield complex earlier that day and returned there later that night.
Maughan told gardaí that he went back to the apartment, as he thought he had left alcohol in there and was angry when he was not allowed in.
He said he lifted his brother in through a window so he could let him in the front door.
Maughan told gardaí that he went into the bedroom where Mr O’ Dea and Mr Nowakowski were asleep.
In an interview, he said after Mr Nowakowski followed him into to the kitchen, he got paranoid and grabbed a carving knife from the counter.
He told gardai he “just went berserk” and he stabbed him twice in the side.
After the ambulance crew arrived he gave him further kick in the head while the paramedics were working on him.
“I can’t explain, I was out of control,” he told gardaí in an interview.
He told gardai that Mr Nowakowski “never fought back.”
“I just lost it…I can’t explain why I did it or anything. I’m not proud of it or anything, my brain just flicked,” he told gardaí in the interview.
“This man did nothing to me, absolutely nothing to me. I think I got paranoid when he was following me out,” said Maughan.
Sergeant Sandra Heelan told the court that Maughan had 68 previous convictions dating back to 1991 for offences including public order, criminal damage, burglary and theft.
She told Denis Vaughan Buckley SC, with Roisin Lacey BL, prosecuting, that Maughan has had a problem with drink for a long time.
Under cross-examination, Sgt Heelan agreed with Mark Nicholas BL, defending, that all bar one of his convictions were in the district court.
Mr Nicholas said Maughan was clearly contrite and “really regrets what happened.”
Deputy State Pathologist ,Dr Michael Curtis gave evidence he carried out a post mortem examination at the Mid-Western Regional Hospital on July 23, 2013.
He told the court he was informed that the deceased was an unemployed single man who lived in a hostel and was believed to be a chronic alcoholic, who remained fully active.
Dr Curtis said the deceased received several blows and was stabbed before receiving a further kick to the head.
Dr Curtis said he had a blood alcohol level of 415mg per cent but drugs were not detected.
He said he sustained two stab wounds to the right side of the chest and his right lung was collapsed.
He told Mr Vaughan Buckley that the cause of death was stab wounds to the trunk, lung and liver with blunt force trauma to the head and face a contributory factor.
Sgt Heelan read a victim impact report to the court on behalf of the sister and family of the deceased.
“When I got the information about the tragic death of my only brother, Piotr, I couldn’t even believe that it happened.
“Now one year gone and I still can’t agree with this fact.
“My close family went through heavy trauma.
“I truly believe we will not be able, ever, to understand why this happened. It’s like time is stopped, a big sadness taking our soul, pain and emptiness.
“Sometimes when I’m passing by people on the street, when I see somebody who reminds me of my brother, I’m looking at him with hope, that’s maybe Piotr, maybe he is still alive.
“He went to Ireland for better life, for job.
“It is very difficult to express in few words my pain, no words are here to express such tragedy – we are feeling that we lost part of ourselves.”
Brendan Nix SC, defending, told the jury in his closing speech that his client was an alcoholic and part of a drinking culture.
He said his client recognised he had a problem with alcohol and tried to address it by going into an addiction treatment centre.
However, he said the incident happened around the time he had the anniversaries of two deceased brothers and one of his children.
“If he’d got over the hurdle of all these anniversaries maybe we would not be here today,” he said.
By Niamh O’Donoghue