A LIMERICK city man who successfully appealed his conviction for murdering another man more than five years ago will be sentenced for manslaughter next month.
Kevin Coughlan, aged 32, whose last address was at Avondale Drive, Greystones was sentenced to life imprisonment in December 2011 after he was convicted of murdering Francis Greene at Steamboat Quay on November 28, 2009.
The body of the 48-year-old, who was originally from Kilteely but who was living at Hartstonge Street in the city centre, was recovered from the River Shannon at Portdrine, Co Clare in February 2010 – three months after he was reported missing.
Throughout a three-week trial at the Central Criminal Court it was the prosecution case that Coughlan had threatened Francis Greene with a knife and forced him to walk from his apartment at Hartstonge Street to Steamboat Quay where he threw him into the water.
CCTV footage was shown to the jury which showed the two men walking in the direction of Steamboat Quay.
However, footage taken from the same area shows Coughlan walking back on his own a short time later.
Following his arrest, the defendant told gardaí that Francis Greene had jumped into the river.
He said he thought he would swim out and he denied pushing him in, saying: “The only thing I’m guilty of is not going in after him,” he said.
During an appeal against his conviction, which was heard in March, Anthony Sammon SC, representing Coughlan, argued the the original trial, which was heard before Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy, was unsatisfactory because of the evidence of the then deputy state pathologist, Dr Khalid Jaber.
Dr Jaber, who has since left the position, said he had found evidence of strangulation from broken bones inside the neck and from teeth marks or indentations on the tongue.
However, Dr Basil Nigel Purdue – a witness for the defence – said it was impossible to give a cause definite cause of death.
The Court of Appeal heard that Dr Jaber changed his conclusion on the cause of death during the trial, which put the defence at a disadvantage.
Mr Sammon said that prior to the trial Dr Jaber has said there was a possibility the deceased man had drowned. However, during the course of his direct evidence he stated that he had come to the conclusion that Mr Greene was dead before he got into the water and that he had been strangled.
Mr Sammon submitted that the defence (in the original trial) should not have been put in the position of having to “cobble together a defence” during the course of a trial.
Handing down its judgement last week, the Court of Appeal stated that Coughlan’s trial had been rendered unsatisfactory.
The president of the Court of Appeal, Mr Justice Seán Ryan, who sat with Mr Justice George Birmingham and Mr Justice John Edwards, quashed the murder conviction and substituted it for manslaughter.
In overturning the murder conviction, the three-judge court made no criticisms of the prosecution or the trial judge in the original trial.
The defendant was remanded in custody and will be sentenced for manslaughter at the Central Criminal Court on July 29, next.
Coughlan was previously also found guilty of the false imprisonment of Mr Greene between Lower Hartstonge Street and Steamboat Quay on the date he went missing.