Court of Appeal, Dublin
A man given life for the axe-murder of a homeless Lithuanian national, whose body was subsequently discovered on a Meath beach, must wait to hear the outcome of an appeal against his conviction.
Marius Gaizutis (55), with an address on the Marsh Road, in Drogheda, Co Louth, had admitted killing Audrius Butkus (44) at his home on the 9th or 10th of September, 2013, but denied it was murder.
The prosecution case was that Mr Butkus died from “multiple blows” to the back of his head with an axe, while the defence contended that Gaizutis had been provoked by threats the deceased made to him, particularly against Gaizutis’ family. The only account of what had happened in the house came from what Gaizutis told gardaí.
In his first two interviews, Gaizutis claimed to have no recollection of what happened, and then claimed the victim had insulted him and hit him over the head with a bottle, in what prosecuting lawyers characterised as an “evolving story”.
He was unanimously found guilty by a jury after two hours and forty minutes of deliberations, and was accordingly given the mandatory life sentence by Ms Justice Margaret Heneghan on May 20, 2015.
Gaizutis moved to appeal his conviction today/yesterday(TUESDAY) on grounds that the there was insufficient evidence for the charge of murder to go to the jury.
His barrister, Ciaran O'Loughlin SC, submitted that the trial judge ought to have directed his client’s acquittal on the murder charge, and allowed the manslaughter charge alone to go to the jury.
Mr O’Loughlin said there was no objective evidence to contradict the defence of provocation, or to undermine what Gaizutis had told gardaí. The victim had no defensive wounds, but Gaizutis had wounds which was objective evidence supporting the accused’s contention he was attacked with a bottle, he said.
Counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions, Patrick Gageby SC, said the only material capable of supporting a defence of provocation could be found in what Gaizutis said to gardaí towards the end of his interviews.
Mr Gageby said it was an “evolving story” and the jury were entitled to conclude that what Gaizutis’ had said to gardaí was “self-serving”. He said the credibility of the claim Gaizutis was provoked could be tested by the surrounding circumstances.
The court heard that, after the murder, Gaizutis disposed of the body and disposed of the carpet in his house, telling his wife the dog had soiled it. He then left the jurisdiction before voluntarily presenting himself to Laytown Garda Station by appointment.
Reserving judgment, Mr Justice John Edwards, who sat with Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy and Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy, said the court hoped to deliver its decision on March 11 next.
Detective Sergeant Liam Archibold, attached to Laytown Garda Station, told the Central Criminal Court that the deceased Mr Butkus was born in Lithuania, who had lived in Drogheda for six years, but was homeless at the time of his death.
The gardaí learned through Interpol that Mr Butkus had a sister in Lithuania, but were unable to track down any other member of his family. He was buried in St Peters Cemetery in Drogheda with assistance from homeless charities.