A father of two who was found dead near his taxi in the early hours of the morning had been beaten with a blunt object and stabbed in the leg and abdomen, a murder trial has heard.
Joseph Hillen (24), who is on trial for murder, accepts that he stabbed the deceased but said he did it to protect himself.
Patrick Treacy SC, prosecuting, today opened the trial of 24-year-old Joseph Hillen in front of a jury of nine men and three women.
Mr Hillen, of Glendesha Road, Forkhill, Co Armagh pleaded not guilty to the murder of Martin Mulligan (53) at Carnmore, Balriggan, Dundalk, Co Louth on September 28, 2015.
Mr Treacy said the deceased, a married father of two now adult daughters, worked as a taxi driver and sometimes delivered coal and gas. On the night he died his last known movements were to drop four people to the Forkhill area at about 1.45am.
His body was found at 3:06am in the nearby townland of Balriggan by three women.
His taxi was about 66 paces from where his body lay. An autopsy by Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis revealed two stab wounds and a number of injuries to his head, torso and arms. Dr Curtis will tell the jury that the stab wound to his abdomen, which was 22.5cm deep, severed an artery and killed him within 30 seconds.
The wound to his leg also severed an artery and would have killed him within five minutes. The blunt force injuries to the rest of Mr Mulligan’s body were inflicted with an object other than the one used to stab him.
Mr Treacy went on to tell that the jury that the accused man gave a number of voluntary interviews to gardai in July of this year.
In those statements he said he was driving a Toyota Avensis that night which was involved in a chase with gardai following reports of someone spinning their tyres on a street in Dundalk. Gardai were unable to catch the Avensis but Mr Hillen, through his barrister Brendan Grehan SC, has accepted that he was the driver.
In his statements Mr Hillen said that he was in the Toyota when he thought he saw Mr Mulligan dumping rubbish in an area belonging to the accused man’s friend and former employer. The owner of the land had previously complained to Louth County Council about illegal dumping at the site.
The accused said he chased Mr Mulligan for a time before the taxi came to a halt and both Mr Hillen and Mr Mulligan got out. The accused said Mr Mulligan then gave him a “closed fist punch to the face” and a “wrestling match” followed.
Another man who was with the accused, who cannot be identified, got into the taxi and drove it into a nearby gateway. He then took the keys to the taxi and threw them into a field.
The accused said Mr Mulligan then went to his taxi and was “rooting for something” before coming back to the Toyota and getting into the driver’s seat. While Mr Mulligan was sitting there the other man came to the Avensis and took a sewer rod from the passenger side door and then used that to twice hit Mr Mulligan around the shoulders and head while Mr Mulligan was sitting in the car.
Mr Treacy told the jury that one of the issues they would have to consider is whether it is credible that Mr Mulligan could have suffered the blunt force injuries identified by the pathologist if he was sitting in the front seat of a car.
Mr Hillen’s statement went on to describe the deceased getting out of the Toyota “in a rolling motion” and then Mr Hillen noticed he had a long, stainless steel, kitchen knife in his hand.
Mr Hillen said he tried to grab it and cut the palm of his own left hand. In the struggle, he “flipped the knife”.
He said he was being struck on the head when he “jabbed out” twice with the knife. He said he had no intention of killing him, that he was trying to protect himself and that he “never meant to stab him above the belt” before adding: “It just happened so quickly.”
Mr Hillen said he took the knife and left the scene with the other man. When he found out two to four days later that Mr Mulligan was dead, he drove with the other man to an area near Victoria Lock on the Newry River and one of them threw the knife out the passenger side window. The knife has not been found.
Mr Treacy said to return a verdict of guilty the jury will have to be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr Hillen was not acting in self defence. Mr Grehan said that his client accepts that he inflicted the two knife injuries that caused Mr Mulligan’s death.
The trial continues tomorrow in front of Justice Eileen Creedon and a jury of nine men and three women.