| 12.8°C Dublin

'I acted in self-defence' - man who stabbed Irish charity worker 26 times

Close

Victim John Curran had injuries ‘consistent with a struggle’

Victim John Curran had injuries ‘consistent with a struggle’

Victim John Curran had injuries ‘consistent with a struggle’

The man accused of murdering Dubliner John Curran has admitted stabbing the charity worker 26 times, but claims he was acting in self-defence.

Congolese national Mitspa Onyoka (25) was not granted bail at the hearing, five months after Mr Curran (60) was found brutally stabbed to death at his flat in South Africa.

Cape Town magistrates heard how Mr Curran was stabbed 26 times in the head, neck, chest and back and suffered blunt trauma injuries to his body.

He was strangled so violently that the thyroid bones on both sides of his neck were broken and had grazes and bruises "consistent with a struggle".

Mr Onyoka, who was a cleaner at popular nightspot the Fantasy Lounge in Cape Town, was arrested several weeks after Mr Curran's body was found on November 7 last year.

Drugged

Mr Onyoka has since been held in the notorious Pollsmoor Prison and has claimed his life was in danger behind bars.

Defence barrister Anthony Berinato said his client was befriended by Mr Curran in the nightspot.

He said Mr Curran offered to get him a job as a car dealer, so he called to his Cape Town apartment, where he claims he was drugged and Mr Curran attempted to sexually assault him.

His affidavit detailed how he saw a knife on the table and "began stabbing him".

"He became very angry and began to choke me. I stabbed him again with the knife and he stopped choking me," the accused said.

Mr Onyoka, who is charged with murder and aggravated robbery, told the court he had no idea what he had done to Mr Curran or if he was dead or alive, saying he fled down the lift.

The cleaner was arrested later that month at work after CCTV images taken in the lift were released by police.

He added in his affidavit: "I was acting in self-defence... I will not flee bail as I want to prove in court I am not guilty".

Investigating officer Detective Shaun Bardien opposed the granting of bail, saying Mr Onyoka was a "flight risk" if released.

Det Bardien said Mr Onyoka's bloodied fingerprints on a knife and footprints and CCTV footage placed him inside the flat and leaving the apartment and he admitted being there.

He told the court that the accused was an illegal immigrant with no family or property ties to South Africa and was facing extremely serious charges.

Defending, Mr Berinato said: "I submit my client has put forward a strong defence as there was clearly a struggle and fight and my client feared being a victim of assault.

"He fought back in self-defence and that is consistent with the post-mortem report."

Prosecutor Johan Swart replied: "Being stabbed 26 times does not suggest self-defence."

Magistrate Vusi Mhlanga denied the accused bail and sent him back to prison until the next hearing on May 16.

Mr Onyoka told the court he had fled the Democratic Republic of Congo in fear of his life as he had demonstrated against the government and if he returned he could be killed.

His lawyer said his client could put up R5,000 bail (€347) and had an address to live in provided by his parents in Cape Town.

Pleading for bail, Mr Onyoka said his life in prison was a day-to-day battle for survival.

Mercy

"Drugs are rife and I am at the mercy of the gangs, and if I remain in detention I may lose my life as I am not a violent person and I am not able to defend myself in there," he said.

Mr Curran had just finished a two-year contract as director of education for Mellon Educate, an Irish-based charity founded by philanthropist Niall Mellon.

Since it was set up in 2002, the charity has helped to build houses for 125,000 people in South Africa's poorest townships.

He was taking a two-month break after his contract in Cape Town ended before returning to Ireland when he was stabbed to death.

He was a respected former school teacher and principal in Dublin before his retirement.