Farmer murdered over stray cow, court told

The trial of two farming brothers accused of murdering a fellow farmer over a dispute involving a stray cow began yesterday.

Daniel Joseph "DJ" Byrne (38), of Hammer Lane, Borness, Mountmellick, Co Laois; and Jason Byrne (32), of the same address, both deny murdering Edward Dempsey (49).

Mr Dempsey, of Co Offaly, whose property straddled the brothers' farm in the neighbouring county, died in hospital 10 months after he was allegedly attacked in October 2007 during a row over a stray heifer.

Prosecutor Aileen Donnelly told the Central Criminal Court in Dublin that the jury will hear medical evidence that the cause of Mr Dempsey's death was pneumonia, septicemia and a longstanding brain injury and fractured skull.

Ms Donnelly told the court on the opening day of the trial that she will seek to prove that both the accused engaged in a "joint enterprise" on December 18 2006 as a result of which Mr Dempsey died.

She said the case was one of "joint responsibility, common design or joint enterprise between the two accused to, at the very least, cause injury to Edward Dempsey".

The jury heard how Mr Dempsey, of Moneyquid, Killeigh, Mountmellick, was taken by gardai to Portlaoise Hospital. The jurors were also told they will hear evidence that the deceased's condition deteriorated on the way to hospital, with gardai witnessing Mr Dempsey having "a spasm of fits" before he arrived at the hospital's A&E department "essentially unconscious". The court heard that a section of the deceased's land was located on Hammer Lane, near the farm of the accused pair. Ms Donnelly said that on the day in question the deceased's brother, John Dempsey, noticed that one of their livestock had strayed onto the Byrne's field near Hammer Lane.

She said Mr Dempsey, his brother and another farm worker travelled to the Byrne's farm and were "invited" by the brothers onto their property.

However, when Mr Dempsey tried to retrieve the animal he was struck by DJ Byrne, who was wielding the handle of a shovel, and "some kind of stick" held by Jason Byrne.

She said the deceased was struck on the legs by Jason Byrne and on the head by DJ Byrne before John Dempsey and the farm worker helped Mr Dempsey to his feet.

Later, Mr Dempsey was transferred to St James Hospital in Dublin after his brain injury worsened and he developed a blockage to his heart.

He was transferred back to Portlaoise Hospital where he died on October 11 2007.

Ms Donnelly told the court that the prosecution will attempt to prove that the injuries Mr Dempsey received on the December 18 2006 "caused his death in so far as they substantially contributed to his death".

She said at the time of the killing either DJ Byrne or Jason Byrne or both had the intention to kill or cause serious injury to Mr Dempsey.

Before sending the jury of six men and six women home for the day, Mr Justice George Birmingham instructed them to keep an "open mind right to the end" of the case.

The trial, which continues, is expected to last two weeks.

*Source: Irish Independent

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