Dublin backpacker Gearoid Walsh was the aggressor in the fight that eventually led to his death, a Sydney court was told yesterday.
The 23-year-old resisted attempts by his older brother to put an end to the argument and instead returned to the scene of the fight a few minutes before he was punched. He suffered a massive head injury and died in hospital on Thursday night.
Tobias Liam Simmons (28), from Sydney, was charged with manslaughter on Friday and yesterday appeared via video link at Parramatta Bail Court. The court heard that this was a "one punch scenario" and that Simmons will be putting forward a plea of self defence.
Gearoid Walsh was in Sydney last weekend to celebrate his sister Aoife's 22nd birthday when he got into a fight with Simmons outside a takeaway in the beach suburb of Coogee. Simmons is alleged to have delivered a punch that caused Walsh to fall. He turned himself in to police on Friday night following an emotional plea from Walsh's mother.
The court heard that Simmons, a project administrator, had an "unblemished prior character". He completed a bachelor of construction management in 2007 and had been working on a building site in the city.
The judge noted that Simmons comes from a stable family in one of Sydney's more affluent suburbs before granting him bail of $10,000 (€6,200). Both of Simmons' parents were in court for the hearing.
"The victim appeared to be the aggressor up until a certain stage," Magistrate Zdenkowski said in court. "…There are statements about prior conduct on behalf of the alleged victim that could be, as some have suggested, provocative.
"It appears to be non-contentious that his brother sought to discourage him from pursuing a course of conduct that in some ways tragically led to the ultimate outcome."
The court heard that Walsh told his older brother Ciaran (27) to "f**k off" before returning to argue with Simmons.
Defence lawyer Peter Bodor told the court his client deeply regrets what happens. "He's devastated, as are many people, but he's also very grateful and humbled by Mrs Walsh's generosity of spirit and humanity."
Prior to the hearing, Tressa Walsh said her family does not want her son's killer to serve time in prison. She described Gearoid as quiet, introverted and not inclined to get into fights.
The argument between Walsh and Simmons took place just two blocks away from where Corkman David Keohane was brutally assaulted in August 2008.
The man accused of the attempted murder of Keohane, Thomas Isaako (20), is due to stand trial in Sydney next March.
He has pleaded not guilty.
Detectives denied that tourists are being targeted and described the two incidents as entirely unrelated.
"There is no evidence of a group of people running around Coogee Bay targeting a certain race or nationality," acting superintendent Shayne Wollbank told reporters.
However, the attack has reignited controversy surrounding alcohol licensing laws and Coogee's violent reputation in particular. The Coogee Bay Hotel, where Simmons was socialising the night before the incident, was last year ranked the second most violent pub in New South Wales.
The venue has since been placed under a number of government restrictions targetting problem pubs, but is still allowed to remain open until 4am every day and until 6am at weekends.
The head of National Preventative Health Taskforce, Rob Moodie, said that such alcohol-related deaths could be prevented if greater restrictions were in place. "For too long we've just let it go and not paid attention to it," he said. "Licensees need to lose their license if they don't manage it properly."
While the Walsh family is anxious to take their son home for burial as soon as possible, his remains are unlikely to be released until later this week, after a post-mortem has been carried out.
Simmons will next appear in court on 18 November.
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