Lives changed by deadly encounter
FROM opposite ends of the world their two lives briefly touched.
When Irish traveller Colm Kenny and his best friend Brian Gilligan, on their ‘dream’ Aussie holiday, tried to queue jump outside the Byron Bay nightclub Cheeky Monkeys, local man Samuel Buultjens and his mates objected.
With verbal abuse and some push and shove antics from both sides a bouncer intervened and the two Irishmen walked away.
Three hours later, Buultjens, then 20, and Colm Kenny’s lives would be for ever linked, with tragic consequences for the Irish engineer’s family, when the paths of the two young men again crossed – with fatal results.
Yet if they had met in other circumstances, and without the booze, the pair may have been friends as both were mad keen on sports.
After drinking and watching a football game at the Beach Hotel, then moving on to the Great Northern with football mates, Buultjens, who described himself as a moderate drinker, continued his binge drinking inside the nightclub, admitting that night to downing 15 drinks, including beer and spirits. In the 15 minutes he was in the Great Northern Hotel, Buultjens said he drank one beer and a vodka.
At Cheeky Monkeys Buultjens said he drank six or seven Canadian Clubs – bourbon mixes – before leaving. All up he admitted to 15 drinks that night.
After leaving the nightclub just after 3am on May 11, 2008, he came across Mr Kenny, 30, who had been drinking at another venue, in the 7/11 24-hour supermarket.
Evidence given previously by Buultjens’ friend, Gabriel Lyon Hart, was that Buultjens went there to buy frozen fishcakes.
“Sam (Buultjens) walked out behind him (Mr Kenny) and gave him a shove. He gave him a push,” Mr Hart said.
“He turned (Mr Kenny) and threw a bit of a wild swing at Sam. It missed.
“He proceeded to sort of stumble away from Sam, with Sam sort of stumbling after him, as well as sort of running out on to the road.
“Sam threw a few wild swings that did not connect.”
In agreed Crown facts, Buultjens had pulled or pushed Mr Kenny to the ground and kicked him to his bottom or back.
Mr Kenny told him to ‘f*** off’ then jogged away, with Buultjens jogging after him.
Eye witnesses told police they saw the two men running, with some describing the running as ‘unusual’. Witnesses also formed the opinion the two men were simply ‘mucking about’.
A woman driving past in a taxi told police she thought the men were only having fun and ‘being comical’, although their running on to the road caused the taxi driver to stop suddenly to avoid them.
The men exchanged punches at the Jonson and Lawson streets’ roundabout. Mr Kenny threw one that did not connect and a punch from Buultjens hit his chin, causing a 20mm by 10mm laceration – the assault Buultjens received an 18-month good behaviour bond for.
Witnesses observed Mr Kenny either stumble, trip or fall to the bitumen roadway.
The back of his head hit the ground – reportedly with the loud sound attracting the attention of other people – and he immediately lost consciousness with bleeding from the head.
Buultjens and others went to aid Mr Kenny and he was put into the back of a passing station wagon and taken to Byron Bay Hospital.
He was flown to a Brisbane hospital and placed in intensive care, where he died six days later on May 18.
At the time police did not know the identity of the offender and on May 13 Buultjens and his father, Jeremy, went to Byron Bay police station.
Buultjens admitted chasing Mr Kenny and punching him in the chin – a decision that ultimately changed for ever the course of their lives, and the lives of one bereaved Irish family.