The trial has begun at a sitting of the Central Criminal Court in Castlebar of a 61-year-old farmer who is charged with the murder of a member of the Traveller community near the village of Cross in Co Mayo last year.

Padraig Nally has pleaded not guilty to the murder of John Ward, 42, a father of 11 from Carrowbrowne, Co Galway on 14 October 2004.

At the opening of this morning's trial, Mr Justice Paul Carney said it was the first time since the foundation of the State that the Central Criminal Court had sat in Mayo.

Mr Justice Carney said the Central Criminal Court now had a capacity to have rapid trials locally when it appeared appropriate to do so.

Opening the prosecution case, Senior Counsel Paul O Higgins said there would be evidence that Mr Nally had been working on his 65-acre farm at Funshinaugh on 14 October last and came back to his farmhouse at about 2pm. 

He became aware of a car outside and when he went out he found Tom Ward, a Traveller, in the car. Tom Ward is a son of John Ward.

Mr O Higgins said Mr Nally's mind at the time appeared to be focussed in a very significant way on burglaries which he believed had been committed in the area by members of the Traveller community. 

He himself had had a chainsaw stolen in February 2004. 

He asked Tom Ward where the person who was with him was and he was told he was around the back. 

At this point Mr Nally went to a shed, took a single barrel shotgun and went to the back of his house where he found John Ward. He approached him and fired a shot which caused a significant wound to Mr Ward's hip and hand.

Subsequently an encounter took place in which John Ward was given a heavy beating and sustained serious injuries, the court was told.

It heard that the State Pathologist would be giving evidence of this.

Mr Nally had told gardaí he had hit John Ward on the head with a stick. At this point Tom Ward drove away from the scene. 

The prosecution argues that Mr Nally then went back to the shed and collected more cartridges and as John Ward attempted to flee from the scene, Mr Nally followed him and shot him again at a distance of four or five yards. 

John Ward was fatally wounded as the shot went through his left arm and lung and penetrated his heart. He appeared to have died almost instantly.

Mr Nally then got into his car and drove to a neighbour and contacted the gardaí, the court was told.

The trial before a jury of seven woman and five men is continuing. Up to 30 witnesses may be called.