Man beaten with hammer, had toe cut off and his body set on fire - murder trial
A murder trial has heard that a homeless man found on fire in a Dublin park had almost €150,000 in funds just weeks before his body was found ablaze.
The prosecution was opening its case to the jury yesterday in the trial of the 29-year-old man charged with murdering Gerard Donnelly in 2013.
Caroline Biggs SC explained that Mr Donnelly's left little toe had been freshly amputated and that he had a v-shaped wound to a thumb when his body was found in the Phoenix Park.
Ciaran Moran, with an address at Camden Hall, Camden Street in Dublin, denied murdering Mr Donnelly at an unknown time during November 28 or 29, 2013 in the Phoenix Park when he was arraigned before the Central Criminal Court yesterday. Dressed in a pink polo shirt and navy tracksuit bottoms, he stood and pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr Donnelly in the Phoenix Park.
Ms Biggs explained that the State was not in a position to specify an exact time of death, but that it was some time in the late hours of November 28 and the early hours of November 29 when a garda and a number of witnesses noticed a fire.
When they investigated they found Mr Donnelly's body on fire, with an aerosol can in his crotch area. Death was pronounced at 2.25am.
She said that State Pathologist Professor Marie Cassidy gave the cause of death as blunt force trauma to the head and noted areas of fire damage under the head and neck.
She said that the skull was extensively fractured and the brain was injured. There was a v-shaped wound to a thumb and the left little toe had been freshly amputated.
The pathologist had concluded that he had received multiple blows to the head from a heavy object and that a lump hammer found beside the body could have been the weapon used.
Ms Biggs said that a canister with a blow torch attached was also found at the scene.
She said that the deceased had been identified through DNA testing.
The barrister said the issue the jury had to decide was whether the accused had caused Mr Donnelly's death and whether he had the necessary intention.
She said that both men were homeless, with the deceased living in the park and the accused in a hostel. She said that the jury would hear from gardai who had come into contact with both men in the weeks before the death.
She said that on one such occasion, October 29, the deceased was in possession of €8,500 and had an EBS bank book showing a balance of €140,000.
She said they would hear evidence to put the accused in the area around 10.30pm on November 28 and that he didn't stay in his hostel that night, but checked into a B&B between 2am and 4am.
She said that he was in possession of items consistent with what was found at the scene, including hammers and a gas canister. She said he was also aware that Mr Donnelly was a man of considerable means and that the accused later had the funds to buy a phone and bicycle.
She said that he attended a Christening on November 30, became intoxicated, was hospitalised and apprehended.
"He made certain, significant admissions in relation to causing the death," she concluded.
The jury also saw photographs of items found at the scene, including a burnt hammer and blow torch that had been lying on the body.
The trial continues before Ms Justice Margaret Heneghan and a jury of nine men and three women. It is expected to last 10 working days.