A delivery cyclist charged with the murder of teenager Josh Dunne has been accused of being evasive and dishonest in his testimony which he gave to gardaí and in court.
In his closing argument to the jury, Sean Guerin for the prosecution also said the fact that George Gonzaga Bentos repeatedly stabbed the 16-year-old boy in the chest, while the boy was defending his friends, showed that his intention clear was to kill or cause serious bodily harm.
But in his summary to the jury, Padraig Dwyer for the defense said Mr Bento was the victim of a set of circumstances and events which combined to produce a terrible tragedy.
Mr Dwyer said Mr Bento never intended to kill or seriously injure and his only intention was to get out of the situation and save his own and his friend’s life.
Mr Bento, a 36-year-old Brazilian national from East Wall in Dublin 3, is charged with the murder of 16-year-old Josh Dunne in East Wall Road, East Wall on January 26, 2021.
Mr. Bento is also accused of having produced an article likely to intimidate others during an argument or a fight, namely a utility knife.
The accused is further charged with assault causing injury to two other young men on the same occasion.
He pleaded not guilty to each of the four counts.
The prosecution alleges Mr Bento, a delivery cyclist, produced a knife during a ‘standoff or confrontation’ with a man on a moped who had stolen another delivery cyclist’s bike.
Josh and other young people arrived at the scene and got involved in the confrontation.
Mr Bento told Gardaí in his interviews that he used a knife to defend himself from the man on the moped and the youth gang.
He said it was only his intention to intimidate them when he pulled out the knife and made them leave.
Mr Bento said he stabbed the first and second men who punched and attacked him because he was scared and wanted to protect himself.
In his closing statement to the jury of seven women and five men, Mr. Guerin said that reference was made during the trial to a number of incidents that Mr. Bento had experienced while working as a cyclist- delivery man.
These included having an engine thrown at him and water being thrown at him. But Mr Guerin said these were “low level” incidents.
He said there were two ways to look at these experiences. He said they may have led Mr Bento to feel “a greater sense of danger”, but he said another way of looking at it could be that he was “enough” with it. being abused and decided he was going to do something about it.
He said Mr Bento testified he wanted to go after the man on the moped who was stealing the bike and “scare him”.
Mr Guerin said while he had no problem trying to get the bike back, he said the issue of scaring someone “is like taking the law into your own hands”.
He also told the jury that the CCTV was “invaluable” because it allowed them to put together a timeline of what happened.
Mr. Guerin said these images show that Mr. Bento gave a different account to gardaí and the court about when he produced the knife. He said the production of the knife was a “serious escalation of the incident”.
He also described the knife used as “vicious looking and very dangerous” and said no one could have it in their hand without realizing how dangerous it was.
The attorney said the stabbing itself was “powerful and violent to the heart of the body”. He said there are gradations in strength, but Mr Bento went “to the top of the ladder” when he “plunged a knife into the cores of three human bodies”.
Mr Guerin said CCTV also showed Josh holding the moped but he was not behaving “in a violent or aggressive manner”. He said the group of teenagers, including Josh, behaved legally and unremarkably until they became involved.
He said Mr. Bento continually exaggerated the danger that existed and his reaction.
Mr. Guerin also accused Mr. Bento of repeated and continuous efforts to conceal what he had done at gardaí and to escape the consequences of his actions.
He said the account of what happened he gave his partner was “self-serving and patently untrue”.
The lawyer said Mr Bento also gave a false account of when he realized someone had died in the incident and the true timeline was revealed by deleted WhatsApp messages.
He also asked the jury to clear their minds and any prejudice or sympathy they might feel towards the defendant.
Mr Guerin said that while Mr Bento had “lamented” the 16 months he had spent in custody charged with the murder, he said those 16 months amounted to one month for every year of Josh Dunne’s life and that the Mr. Bento’s bail application had been denied because he was considered a flight risk.
In his closing statement to the jury, Mr Dwyer for the defense said Mr Bento was a good, honest and hard-working man and father who had lived a spotless life and always stayed out of trouble.
He said he was loved, loved and admired by friends and colleagues and that first witnesses said Mr Bento either saved his life or saved him from a much more serious injury on the night in question.
He said Mr Bento was a compassionate and adamant man who said he was sorry for what happened to Josh Dunne “it’s the last thing he wanted, the last thing he had the intention and if he could do anything to bring him back than he would”.
Mr Dwyer said responsibility for the tragedy lay with the man on the motorbike and ‘other people’, who he said launched a ‘savage, gruesome and vicious attack on two innocent people going about their business “.
He said Mr. Bento made a mistake that night trying to stop a crime. He said it was a mistake the Irish don’t make because they know that if you try to stop a crime you can become a victim yourself.
Mr Dwyer said the knife used by Mr Bento was a fruit knife, which he used in his daily work to cut fruit and he never intended to kill or cause injury serious.
He said one of Mr Bento’s intentions was to get away from the incident and save his own life and that of his companion. He said his intentions were always good and never bad.
The attorney said Mr Bento acted honestly overnight and exercised his right to self-defense and the defense of another person. He said his first interaction with the thief was calm, measured and non-aggressive.
He said that when the attack started, Mr Bento and his companion were riding their bikes to leave the scene.
“They had given up on doing the right thing because they saw the danger coming, but they never had a chance as a ruthless attack was launched against them,” Mr Dwyer said.
He said the group involved wanted to administer a “punishment of beatings” and he said that when they testified they tried to “whitewash” their involvement.
The lawyer told the jury that an eyewitness said they were afraid they would be seen calling gardaí to the scene and that the atmosphere during the incident was deadly, dangerous, ugly and illegal , and that the attacks were “sustained”.
Defense says Bento ‘not a killer’
Mr Dwyer said the prosecution tried to argue that Mr Bento could have used proportionate force, but he said that was not how real life worked.
He said: “When you measure reasonable strength, you are doing what you have to do to save your life and that may involve using any means at your disposal.
“There is no measuring scale for reasonable strength, you can’t weigh it in grams or kilos, you can’t measure it in centimeters, it’s what you honestly believe in the circumstances. ”
He said it was inconceivable that Mr Bento would “go out as a vigilante” and “turn his life upside down”. He said the only dishonesty in the case came from the witnesses involved in the attack.
Mr Dwyer said the discrepancies in Mr Bento’s account were due to the fact that he had not slept for two days, was tired and found it difficult to remember everything that happened. was passed “frame by frame” during the attack.
He said that Mr. Bento was not a murderer, a killer or a thug, but that he belonged to a good part of society that finds crime appalling and to a small part of society that would come forward to prevent a crime from being committed.
The lawyer said Mr. Bento was not thinking, he was just reacting. He said that in a situation like this, you act on your instincts to survive.
He said the defense was not seeking a “transitional or compromise verdict” and he asked the jury to find Mr Bento not guilty on all counts.
Judge Paul Burns has now begun his charge to the jury and said he will continue that charge tomorrow.