10 Aug 2022

Waterford murder trial: Barrister accuses gardaí of 'tunnel vision' investigation

Waterford murder trial: Barrister accuses gardaí of 'tunnel vision' investigation

The late Paddy Lyons (left) of County Waterford and Ross Outram from County Tipperary

The barrister for a man charged with murdering a 90-year-old retired farmer in his home in Waterford has suggested that the garda investigation was “tunnel visioned” in nature, did not “go below the surface” and “only pointed itself one way."

Ross Outram told gardai in interviews that he had lumps on his head after Paddy Lyons hit him with a walking stick and shovel, and that he had taken up to 100 Xanax that day. However, the Central Criminal Court jury heard on Thursday that gardai at Dungarvan Garda Station took no photographs of his head injury and no urine test was performed.  

28-year-old Mr Outram of Ferryland, Waterford Road, Clonmel in Co Tipperary, has pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr Lyons at Loughleagh, Ballysaggart, Lismore, Co Waterford, at a time unknown between February 23 and 26, 2017.

A pathologist has given evidence that Mr Lyons suffered multiple blows to his head and neck from a blunt weapon, before his blood-smeared body was found slumped in his armchair at his home. 

The jury has heard medical evidence that Mr Lyons suffered a “stiffness or fusion” of his right shoulder during childbirth and could only keep it in one position. A pharmaceutical expert has told the jury that there is "no proof" the accused Mr Outram had taken Xanax.

The trial has previously heard that Mr Outram had other injuries that included marks on his hands and bruising to the inside of his thigh. Detective Garda Joe Wyse said he took photographs of these injuries in Dungarvan garda station on February 28. 

 Prosecution counsel John O’Kelly SC today tendered Superintendent Anthony Pettit at the request of the defence.

Under cross-examination by Michael O’Higgins SC, defending, Supt Pettit said he was aware that Mr Outram had cuts and scrapes to his hands and he remembered being shown photos of the accused’s knuckles while he was in custody.

Mr O’Higgins asked the witness if these photos were ever examined by a pathologist or a GP. Supt Pettit said he did not ask a pathologist or an expert to examine these injuries but he had investigated if they were received in Mr Lyons’ house.

Supt Pettit outlined that the shovel found at the scene had been swabbed and Mr Lyons’ DNA was found on it. The absence of Mr Outram’s DNA on the shovel did not preclude the fact that he had been struck by it, added the witness.

Mr O’Higgins said his client had informed gardai in his interviews that he had lumps on his head and asked the witness was this not something that was “crying out” for a physical examination. “The injuries he pointed out were more of an evidential nature than of a serious nature,” replied Supt Pettit, adding that he was satisfied that gardai took steps to record the accused’s injuries.

Supt Pettit explained that twelve areas of blood were sampled at the scene in Ballysaggart and all contained the deceased's DNA profile. No DNA belonging to Mr Outram was found in Mr Lyons' house, the court heard.

The defence barrister asked Supt Pettit if it would have been helpful to have the lumps on Mr Outram’s head photographed. “Its not the case that those photos were omitted on purpose,” he replied.

Mr O’Higgins asked Supt Pettit if any consideration was given to getting a urine sample from Mr Outram as a result of him taking drugs. The witness said the urine sample was not a possibility as four days had passed at that point. 

The court has heard that Mr Outram claimed he had taken up to 100 Xanax tablets on the day in question, which he had sourced from the internet. 

Mr O’Higgins asked Supt Petitt how long it takes for Xanax “to pass through” one’s system. The witness said he did not know. “How could you have reached a conclusion if you did not know,” interjected the barrister.

Counsel said he had to suggest that this garda investigation was “tunnel visioned” in nature, did not “go below the surface” and only “pointed itself one way”. “I disagree”, said Supt Pettit, adding that he was satisfied that all possible avenues had been investigated and Mr Outram’s injuries were minor in nature. “It would be difficult for anyone to say with any degree of certainty where the cuts and scrapes on his hands had come from,” added the witness.

Mr O’Higgins emphasised to the court that it would have “shed light on the matter” if the lumps on Mr Outram’s head had been investigated and a urine sample had been attained.

Supt Pettit said the lumps on the accused’s head had not been photographed and he was not sure if an examination of them by a GP would have brought them any further.

Mr O’Higgins put it to the witness that he was not a doctor and yet he was content to give evidence to a jury saying what a doctor would not have done. “The lumps are of a minor nature,” indicated Supt Pettit.

Counsel said no one was in a position to know anything about the lumps as they had not been examined.

In conclusion, Mr O’Higgins said his client should have been photographed because he had lumps on his head. The witness said he accepted this.

Supt Pettit told prosecution counsel John O’Kelly SC that Mr Outram had access to a doctor in Dungarvan Garda Station.

Under re-examination by Mr O’Higgins, Insp Pettit agreed that Mr Outram saw a doctor because he had complained of being sick.

The trial continues on Friday before Mr Justice Paul Coffey and a jury of eight men and four women.

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