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Sunday 20 October 2019

'It was either him or me', trial told victim picked up knife first

Claire McGrath was giving evidence at the trial of Keith Connorton
accused of murdering Graham McKeever
Claire McGrath was giving evidence at the trial of Keith Connorton accused of murdering Graham McKeever

A man accused of stabbing his partner's lover to death after catching her cheating told gardai that the victim came at him with a knife and "it was either him or me that was getting stabbed", a murder trial has heard.

Keith Connorton (40) said he managed to turn the knife around and stab Graham McKeever at the accused's home in Deerpark Avenue, Tallaght, on February 18, 2017.

Mr Connorton (40) has pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr McKeever (32) and is on trial at the Central Criminal Court.

Defence counsel Michael O'Higgins SC was cross examining the accused's partner, Claire McGrath.

Messy

Mr O'Higgins showed Ms McGrath and the jury a video of an interview given by the accused to gardai following his arrest on February 20, 2017.

In it, Mr Connorton said he came home in the early hours and made some toast.

He had argued with Ms McGrath two days earlier and hoped she was asleep but she came into the kitchen and told him to get out, that their relationship was finished.

Mr Connorton said he was "devastated" at this and reminded her it was his home.

Then he heard someone in the bedroom and asked if someone else was there.

"That's when things started getting messy," he said.

He hit her "across the face" and asked who was "in our bed, in my bed", but she told him to get out. "Then this big young fella comes out half-naked and clocks me," Mr Connorton said.

The accused told gardai that he thought he "blacked out" and that Mr McKeever must have hit him a "load of times" as he had "lumps" all over him.

The next thing he remembered was Ms McGrath screaming at Mr McKeever to "put down the knife".

Mr McKeever, he said, came at him but the accused got up and grabbed the knife by the blade, cutting his own hand.

He managed to turn the knife around and stab Mr McKeever "a couple of times".

He got the knife off Mr McKeever and said he thought he may have stabbed him again.

There was blood everywhere, he called 999 and tried to do CPR on Mr McKeever. "I was trying to keep him alive," he said.

Ms McGrath started screaming "he's dead" and told Mr Connorton to leave so he "legged it". He spent the rest of the night in a ditch and cried.

"I didn't mean to kill that guy. The last thing I expected was for somebody to be in my home," he added.

"He came at me with a knife and I grabbed the knife.

"It was him or me that was getting stabbed and unfortunately it was him."

Mr Connorton said he was "very, very sorry", adding: "I didn't mean for this to happen."

Painkillers

Ms McGrath accepted that this account differed from the one she gave to the jury last week and to statements she gave to gardai immediately following the fatal stabbing.

She said she was on painkillers and Xanax when she gave her statements. "I was out of my head," she added.

She said it is possible that Mr Connorton's account was more reliable than her own.

Garda Sergeant Camon Ryan said Ms McGrath did not appear to be "out of her head" when giving her second statement at her mother's home on the evening after the fatal stabbing.

The trial continues.

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