An Irishman charged together with two other men from Dublin with murdering, mutilating and dumping the body of a former friend failed to turn up to his trial with two others at Amsterdam Criminal Court yesterday.

Philip County, 34, formerly of Portarlington and with an address in Lucan, Co Dublin, contacted the court through his lawyer claiming his family had received a bullet in the post as a warning and he would not be in court.

*Warning - this report contains details some readers may find disturbing*

29-year-old Keith Ennis suffered multiple stab wounds to his head and face and several fatal knife slashes to his back penetrating vital organs in a Rotterdam apartment in February 2009.

Afterwards his body was cut up with a hacksaw. The head was severed and hidden in a suitcase which was dumped in a canal together with refuse bags containing his body, which was hacked into two parts.

It took weeks before Dutch police identified the victim via Interpol and assistance from gardaí as a result of DNA and identification from a distinctive tattoo on one of Mr Ennis's arms.

Mr County's co-accused Kenneth Brunell, 30, of Palmerstown, Co Dublin, and Barry McArdle, 31, from Drimnagh, Dublin, who were extradited from Ireland in 2014 to stand trial, told judges as the four-day trial opened that Mr County's statements denying involvement in the killing were all lies.

He was involved in Mr Ennis's killing, they said.

In an earlier statement Mr County had admitted helping his co-accused to dispose of the dead man's body from a Rotterdam apartment.

Both Mr Brunell and Mr McArdle had exercised their right to silence, refusing to answer any questions after they were transferred to the Dutch authorities.

When the presiding judge asked why, they replied: "On the advice of our lawyer."

Asked what they were doing in the Netherlands, they claimed they went there on holidays.

The court heard that in an apartment in Rotterdam where both Mr County and the victim had lived for a time and where Mr McArdle and Mr Brunell had stayed, Dutch police recovered a chainsaw without a blade hidden in a meter cupboard.

DNA from the dead man and from Mr McArdle were found on the chainsaw.

The dead man was in the drugs trafficking business and police believed that Mr County was working for him in the Netherlands, judges heard, and there had been media reports in Ireland that those responsible for his murder were members of one of Dublin's most violent drugs gangs.

Mr Ennis believed his life was in danger from gang leaders who suspected he had provided information to gardaí leading to the seizure of drugs and guns.

In the months before his death he had emailed funeral requests to his family saying his life was in danger and he wanted to put his affairs in order for his nine-year-old son.

He even named the funeral music he wanted and where he would be waked and asked for his ashes to be divided between his mother and his fiancée.

Mr County gave a statement to gardaí and later to Dutch police that Mr Brunell and Mr McArdle were responsible for Mr Ennis's killing.

In excerpts read out in court he said Mr Ennis was on the run and they had shared a flat together in Rotterdam after he fled Ireland.

On 7 February 2009 a row broke out in the flat where Mr McArdle and Mr Brunell were also staying, while Mr County was at the supermarket.

"Keith went to the living room and took a knife and tried to stab Barry then Kenneth took a knife from the kitchen and stabbed Keith in the back, Barry told me that he took a knife and then stabbed Keith with it in his neck," he said.

Supported by a volunteer from Dutch victim support the victim's mother Margaret Ennis left the courtroom for a time during the pathology reports detailing the wounds her son had suffered at the hands of his killers.

The trial resumes again on Monday when the Dutch public prosecutor is expected to demand the maximum murder sentence.

The verdict will be delivered on 15 May.