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Monday 20 November 2017

Feral young who prowl our streets looking for trouble

KILLING: What Curran case says about us as a society

TWO young lives senselessly snuffed out by mindless violence. For all who sat through the three-week trial of David Curran, there was no escaping the heartbreak at the killings of Pawel Kalite and Mariusz Szwajkos. Yet their murders have cast a deeply unflattering light on the extent of juvenile lawlessness on city streets and the dangerously wild, out-of-control youngsters who rule them.

That two young men should die at the hands of a vicious young thug is an abhorrent tragedy. That they should be the victims of a breed of an under-age criminal devoid of any moral compass is truly shocking, and highlights a terrible ill in our society.

On that fateful Saturday in February 2008, double murderer David Curran savagely plunged a screwdriver into the heads of two innocent men. It was a calculated, sadistic act, but he was only one player in a cast of five youngsters who unleashed a reign of terror on the streets.

In court, the picture which emerged of Curran was one of a teenager with scant regard for the law and astonishingly lacking in any form of responsible guidance. Before murdering two men, he spent the day drinking alcohol, smoking cannabis and popping benzodiazepine tablets.

He was just 17, yet this toxic cocktail was nothing unusual for him. He was accompanied by Sean Keogh, who was last week acquitted of the murders but convicted of assault causing harm after he admitted kicking Pawel Kalite in the head.



Appalled

The rest of this "motley crew", as Keogh's counsel Patrick Gageby called it, included Curran's then-15-year-old cousin and two 15-year-old girls. They were also no strangers to underage alcohol consumption and were apparently allowed to roam freely for much of the day without parental guidance.

It was a decision by these three youngsters to go to the nearby chipper that set in motion a deadly chain of events. Curran's young cousin bumped into Pawel Kalite and a fight ensued. Clearly not appalled by violence, the two girls got involved and both verbally abused the Polish man as one of them hit him on the face.

Keen to see punishment exacted on the man, one of them then phoned David Curran no fewer than four times in the space of a few minutes.

Passers-by were shocked at the extent of the savagery, with three concerned people phoning gardai after witnessing the initial scuffle. By then, not a single drop of blood had been shed, but right-thinking, law-abiding citizens were horrified at the extent of the viciousness.

What happened next epitomised both the best and the worst of human behaviour in the Drimnagh suburb. Worried for Pawel Kalite's safety, two locals got into their cars and drove around looking for him. They weren't to know that Pawel had already reached the sanctuary of his home.

Chillingly, one of the two young girls later defended the reasons for continuing the row by involving Curran, explaining: "(The unnamed boy) was on a mad one and he obviously wouldn't leave it like. Nobody would".

As Mr Gageby put it, they were doing their utmost to fuel the aggression, "pumping it up". And as their evidence was revealed to the court, it emerged that they appeared completely oblivious to the simple difference between right and wrong.

Encouraging Curran's misguided rage, they headed to the house shared by Pawel Kalite and Mariusz Szwajkos, where the pent-up aggression turned into unspeakable violence.

This was truly a terrifying gang, shattering the peace of a quiet Saturday evening in Drimnagh and injecting a sense of terror into the hearts of locals.

One could argue that these kids were not unique. Across the country, mobs comprising drunk and drug-addled teens regularly create chaos. In fact, the spectre of aggressive teenage boys and girls engaged in violence rears its head every day. Rarely, however, does this type of feral, out-of-control behaviour spill over into violence with such devastating consequences.

Pawel Kalite and Mariusz Szwajkos may be high-profile victims of teenage thuggery, but they aren't the first. Nor will they be the last. But if the chilling details emerging from this trial are any indication, adolescent violence is an escalating scourge that urgently needs to be tackled.

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