Thursday 27 October 2016

David Speedie was in the company of an alleged gangland figure, defamation case told

Tim Healy

Published 25/06/2015 | 16:52

David Speedie pictured leaving the Four Courts Photo: Courts Collins
David Speedie pictured leaving the Four Courts Photo: Courts Collins

A GARDA and an employee of the Sunday World told the High Court they saw former Premiership footballer David Speedie in the company of an alleged gangland figure.

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They were among four witnesses called by the Sunday World as part of its defence of an action by Mr Speedie, who played for clubs like Liverpool and Chelsea, over what his says were defamatory articles written about him in 2011.

Mr Speedie claims the stories falsely meant he was engaged in criminal activity, was involved in smuggling or transportation of drugs and had links to gangland crime.

He sued the paper's publishers, Sunday Newspapers Ltd, editor Colm McGinty and Mick McCaffrey who wrote the stories.

The defendants deny defamation and say the words in the articles were true.

The defence case ended today.

Mr Justice John Hedigan will decide whether the jury will go out to consider a verdict on Friday although this may be postponed due to a prior commitment of one of the jurors.

Garda Colin O'Carroll told the court he saw Ritchie Thompson, who the jury has been told was a garda suspect in a gangland investigation, in the passenger seat of a Mercedes jeep driven by Mr Speedie in the

Kevin Street area in May 2011. The garda said he saw the car again in nearby McDonagh House when the two men got out and went in different directions.

A former Sunday World employee, who worked in the sports department of the Sunday World until last year, said he knew Ritchie Thompson from his schooldays.

He saw Ritchie, along with Liam Brannigan, an associate of Thompson's criminal brother "Fat Freddy" Thompson, with Mr Speedie "sitting in one group" in a Dublin pub in December 2010.

Another garda, Owen Kirwan, said he was tasked to profile Ritchie Thompson as part of his role in the garda "Operation Anvil" which targeted major gangs and crime.

In June 2008, he saw Mr Speedie, who he recognised, driving onto Dame Street and was about to signal him to pull over when Mr Speedie did so anyway as his girlfriend was stopping off at a takeaway.   During a conversation, Mr Speedie told him "if Ritchie Thompson was on fire, I wouldn't piss on him".

Garda Darragh Kenny told the court he stopped Mr Speedie driving a Mercedes jeep on May 10, 2008, near McDonagh House, and while they were speaking, Ritchie Thompson's wife passed by and said: "Dave, you are blocking traffic".

The court heard the Sunday World now had records showing the length of a call between Mr McCaffrey and Mr Speedie, which led to the publication of the first article.  While Mr Speedie said the call lasted 2-3 minutes, and Mr McCaffrey estimated it lasted about 11 minutes, the record showed it lasted 8 minutes and 45 seconds.

Earlier, Mr McCaffrey who, under cross-examination by Mark Harty SC, for Mr Speedie, said this was the first time he had ever been in court in relation to his journalism although he said newspapers regularly receive solicitors' letters over articles.

He accepted he was a named defendant to two other cases against newspaper, in 2005 and 2011, but the court heard nothing had happened in relation to the first case and papers had not even been served in relation to the second.

Earlier, on his second day under cross-examination, he said he "made absolutely nothing up" in the articles he wrote.

As a crime journalist, and author of a number of books, including a bestseller on the Crumlin/Drimnagh gang feud, he has a lot of sources of stories including gardai, criminals and lawyers.

He declined to say what was the source of some of the information he used for the Speedie story.

Asked whether he paid for stories he said: "Absolutely not, I can honestly say I never paid a garda for information".

Asked did he research the agendas and motives of people who come to him with information, he said as an experienced journalist, he would spot if someone was trying to smear someone else in giving information.

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