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Man jailed for manslaughter after stabbing fisherman 40 times

A man has been jailed for ten years for manslaughter after stabbing a fisherman 40 times in Wicklow on the 6th of May 2019.

Darren Houlden (44) pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to manslaughter after stabbing 37-year-old Stephen Kavanagh to death during a row over missing cocaine.

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Trial Judge Ms Justice Carmel Stewart expressed her condolences to Kavanagh’s family but went on to explain how there was a number of factors that the court was obliged to consider.

The jury accepted Houlden’s defence case that he “lost control and snapped” during the attack and that fear was the driving factor as Houlden was afraid for himself but had also received threats towards his family from Kavanagh.

During last month’s sentence hearing, one of Kavanagh’s sisters ‘Stephanie’ stated that her brother’s life was so “brutally and viciously robbed” and that he was “left to die like a dog”. Stephanie added that the trial had been conducted “according to the fictional and fanciful tales” of Holuden, who she said was portraying himself as the “true victim of the crime”.

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According to Former Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis, Kavanagh received approximately 40 stab wounds to his head, neck and face, which included the slicing of the right jugular vein and the thyroid artery.

The court was told that Houlden arrived at Arklow Garda Station following the incident covered in blood at approximately 12:35am following a drug-induced weekend with the victim and his girlfriend. While handing in a bloody knife, Houlden said, “It’s my fault. I attacked him. It’s all on me.”

Kavanagh’s girlfriend Rachel Kearney stated that she saw Holden “slaughtering” and “overkilling” her boyfriend while adding that Holden was on top of Kavanagh while stabbing him.

Ms Justice Stewart stated that it was quite clear and understandable that Kavanagh’s family had difficulty accepting the verdict but added, “the jury had spoken and the court was bound by the jury verdict”.

Houlden expressed his sympathies towards Kavanagh’s family while stating that it was “the most unnatural of acts” and that he was “truly sorry”.

Houlden, who had 13 previous convictions including assault, harm, possession of drugs and forgery, was given a headline sentence of 14 years.

Due to the mitigating factors of an early guilty plea, expression of remorse and the contents of the probation report, the sentence was reduced by three years with the final 12 months suspended for a period of two years.

The sentence was also backdated to May 7th 2019, when Houlden went into custody.

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