Saturday 25 October 2014

Driver of Melanie McNamara’s car caught glimpse of gunman

Sean Byrne tells court: ‘I barely seen him’

Andrew Phelan

Published 15/01/2014 | 15:33

Melanie McCarthy-McNamara
Melanie McCarthy-McNamara
Daniel McDonnell

THE DRIVER of the car in which Melanie McCarthy McNamara was shot dead caught a glimpse of the gunman, but did not recognise him, the Central Criminal Court has heard.

Sean Byrne said in evidence the man who shot Melanie (16) as she sat in the back seat of his car was “a stranger to him”. He also told the jury that he had known the murder accused, Daniel McDonnell (19) to see and by name.

Mr Byrne was being cross-examined by Patrick Marrinan SC, for the defence, as Mr McDonnell's trial resumed today. The accused, of Brookview Lawns, Tallaght, has pleaded not guilty to Melanie's murder at Brookview Way on February 8, 2012.

Melanie (16) was sitting in the back of a car with her boyfriend and another man when she was shot in the head. She was rushed to hospital, but pronounced dead.

Questioned by Mr Marrinan, Mr Byrne said Melanie had been sitting in the rear passenger seat of his car and her boyfriend, Christopher Moran was in the front.

“All of a sudden,” he became aware that another vehicle, a jeep, had pulled up beside him.

The next thing he saw was “the flame of a shot” from the vehicle, and there was no opportunity to react to the jeep, which then drove off.

He agreed with Mr Marrinan that there was no other interaction between the occupants of his car and the jeep.

Mr Moran did not produce a hammer, he said.

“If somebody were to say otherwise that would be completely wrong?” Mr Marrinan asked. Mr Byrne agreed.

He then drove off, not to pursue the jeep, but to get to Tallaght Hospital as soon as possible. He saw a man with short black hair get out of the jeep.

The jury was told a garda would give evidence that she asked Mr Byrne if he knew the gunman.

“She says that your reply was that you had never seen him before”, Mr Marrinan said.

Mr Byrne said he could not remember saying that.

“I barely seen him”, he said. “I wouldn't be sure of what I saw. I wouldn't recognise him”

Asked if he had caught a glimpse of the gunman, he told Mr Marrinan he had been “in shock” and “just wanted to get out of there”.

Questioned again, he agreed that he did not recognise the gunman, who was “a stranger to him”.

Yesterday, Mr Byrne said: “The back driver's window was down and a shot was discharged”.

He said that he and Mr Moran didn't realise that Melanie had been shot until he drove away.

“We were asking was everything ok,” he recalled. “Melanie didn't reply. She was lying down across the seats. She was choking.”

He said they drove to Tallaght hospital, where Melanie was pronounced dead.

When the trial opened, Brendan Grehan, prosecuting, said the case against Mr McDonnell revolved around the interpretation of what he wrote on his cell wall along with the contents of two letters he handed to a prison officer for posting weeks later.

The trial continues before Mr Justice Paul Carney and a jury of six men and six women.

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