Two men have been convicted for killing a man in Co Westmeath during a row over the breeding of chihuahuas.
Christopher Nevin was beaten to death with a hatchet outside his friend’s house at Tailteann Road in Navan on November 19, 2015.
The jury came back with the verdicts this afternoon after deliberating for seven hours and twenty two minutes.
Josh Turner and Wayne Cluskey, of Mooretown in Ratoath, Co. Meath, both stood trial for Christopher Nevin’s murder.
Mr Turner was convicted by a majority verdict while his co-accused was acquitted of murder and found guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter.
The court heard they were looking for some sort of payment from Mr Nevin after Josh gave him a male chihuahua to breed with his three female dogs.
The jury sat through eight days of evidence during which CCTV of the assault on Mr Nevin, described as “savage” and “awful” by one barrister, was shown several times. The State’s main witness was Wayne Casserly, a close friend of Christopher Nevin and a friend of the two accused.
Wayne Casserly told the trial that Josh Turner had loaned Christopher Nevin a male chihuahua to breed with three female chihuahuas. But Nevin complained that the dog was “shooting blanks” as only one of the females got pregnant. A dispute arose over what Turner would be paid.
Casserly and Christopher were so close that when Josh Turner wanted to speak to Christopher about payment for the dog, he called Wayne Casserly, knowing the two would probably be together.
Turner and Nevin arranged to meet at Casserly’s home on Tailteann Road. In his evidence to the trial Turner said that Nevin had agreed to pay him. That was why, he said, he and Cluskey called to Tailteann Road that afternoon.
Turner and Cluskey arrived by car shortly before 2pm and Turner knocked on the window of the house. Casserly and Turner said that when Nevin answered the door he had a hatchet in his hand. Cluskey told gardaí the same thing during interviews days after the killing.
Turner said that Nevin was “roaring and shouting” and threatening to chop his head off. He said he backed away and suddenly Wayne Cluskey entered the fray. Carrying an axe in his hand, Cluskey barreled into Nevin, dropped the axe and the two grappled on the ground.
As that fight continued down the driveway of the house Josh Turner picked up the axe that Wayne Cluskey had dropped and used it to hit Mr Nevin several times, including blows to the head that Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis said caused his death.
Meanwhile Cluskey got free, took the hatchet from Christopher Nevin’s hands, and used it to strike him twice on the body.
Wayne Casserly called an ambulance and tried to resuscitate his friend. A passerby also stopped to help before paramedics arrived. He was pronounced dead in hospital some hours later.
Cluskey and Turner went voluntarily to Navan garda station four days later and admitted their roles in Nevin’s death. Josh Turner claimed that he had lost all self control after Nevin threatened him with the hatchet and struck his friend Wayne Casserly with it as they struggled on the ground. Cluskey said that he was defending Turner when he ran in carrying the axe.
Justice McCarthy had told the jury that they should find Cluskey guilty of manslaughter if they believed that he thought he was defending Josh Turner but that he used unreasonable force in doing so.
He said they should find Turner guilty of murder if they believed that he intended to kill or cause serious injury to Mr Nevin and that he had not lost all self control.
Mr Turner claimed he was provoked and “just flipped and lost control” while his co-accused said he was acting in self defence.
The victim’s wife Lisa screamed abuse at the dock when the verdicts came in and she had to be restrained after she threw a water bottle across the court room.
Gardaí removed Ms Nevin from the court as she shouted at Wayne Cluskey: “You brought in the axe.” Outside the building members of Mr Nevin’s family and friends stood shouting while gardaí kept the families of the convicted men inside.
Their sentence hearing is due to take place on Monday week.