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Brothers accused of murdering neighbour grinning before row, court told

Two brothers accused of murdering a neighbour over a row involving a stray cow were grinning "like madmen", before the attack, a court was told.

Daniel Joseph "DJ" Byrne (39), of Hammer Lane, Borness, Mountmellick, Co Laois; and Jason Byrne (33), of the same address, deny murdering father-of-two Edward "Eddie" Dempsey (49).

At the start of their trial at the Central Criminal Court yesterday, Aileen Donnelly, prosecuting, told the jury that Mr Dempsey had been struck over the head by DJ Byrne in a row over a stray heifer.

She said Mr Dempsey spent a "prolonged period" on a ventilator following the attack on December 18, 2006, but died of pneumonia and septicaemia 10 months after allegedly receiving the head injury.

John Dempsey, brother of the deceased, told the court he and his brother had noticed one of the herd had strayed on to the Byrnes' land.

A short time later, Mr Dempsey drove with his brother and a farm hand to retrieve the stray.

He claimed Eddie had phoned gardai but when they got to the neighbouring farm, the gardai had not arrived.

Mr Dempsey claimed DJ, holding the handle of a shovel, and Jason Byrne, holding the handle of a brush, were standing in the yard.

They were like "madmen", he said, later explaining that they were "grinning". He said DJ had invited Eddie in, saying: "Come on in and get your heifer."

When Eddie went in, Jason struck him on the right arm with the brush handle.

"It started up out of nothing," Mr Dempsey claimed.

He said he heard "the bone crack" as Jason struck Eddie on the leg and claimed DJ then delivered a blow over the ear "that finished him".


Mr Dempsey pulled his brother out of the yard by his boots, claiming he was "about to get a second blow on the head".

Defence counsel, Paul O'Higgins, put it to Mr Dempsey that DJ Byrne had told Eddie Dempsey not to come into the yard.

"That's a lie," retorted Mr Dempsey.

Mr O'Higgins then put it to him that there had been a "series of court cases" over the years concerning the Dempseys' "disorderly conduct in attempting to retrieve cattle".

He referred to several cases but Mr Dempsey insisted that he could not recall as it had been over 20 years ago.

The trial continues.

Belfast Telegraph