Pictured: Dad (29) parties with friend who would help cut up his body with chainsaw weeks later
Dublin trio used chainsaw to cut up Keith Ennis and then dump body parts in a lake
THREE Dublin men have been cleared of the gruesome murder of Irish criminal Keith Ennis in Holland in 2009.
However, the trio were convicted of dismembering Ennis' body with a chainsaw and dumping his body parts in a lake in Amsterdam.
Philip County (28) originally from Foxdene Gardens, Lucan, Barry McArdle (30) from Drimnagh, Dublin and Kenneth Brunell (29) of Palmerstown, Co Dublin were sentenced to two years in prison for hiding a body, a felony under Dutch law.
But two of the men were last night flying back to Ireland. Brunell has served his time while awaiting trial and McArdle was freed while waiting for an appeal.
Convicted drug dealer County did not show up for the trial because his family was under threat, receiving a bullet in the mail, according to his lawyer.
The court heard that County's family had received a note with the bullet warning him not to show up at the trial and that windows at the family home had been shot at.
He is now believed to be hiding out in Brazil.
The judges said in their verdict that the outcome of the investigation into Ennis' violent death is "highly unsatisfactory, especially for Ennis' next of kin, who do not know who murdered him".
There was insufficient evidence to suggest the three men killed Ennis.
Ennis (29) was stabbed to death in February 2009 in an apartment in the Dutch city of Rotterdam.
He received multiple stab wounds to his head and face and fatal knife slashes to his back, penetrating vital organs.
Afterwards his body was cut up with a chainsaw. 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 gardai as a result of DNA and identification from a distinctive tattoo on one of Ennis' arms.
Brunell and McArdle were extradited from Ireland in 2014 to stand trial.
Dublin-born Ennis had been lying low in Holland, after he had allegedly come under pressure following a fall-out with former criminal associates.
There was speculation he had been killed by organised criminal gangs from Dublin.
This theory came about because Ennis had been accused of tipping off gardai about a major drugs factory in Walkinstown in October 2007 after he was caught with cocaine, a Glock firearm and €16,000 in cash.
Ennis' family has always insisted he was not a garda informer and was murdered over "a personal matter".
On February 24, 2009, his body was found dismembered in Het IJ, a lake in the heart of Amsterdam. Several body parts were discovered in plastic bags and although clear his death had been violent, police had trouble identifying the body.
Only after fingerprints were sent to gardai were Dutch detectives able to identify Ennis.
The court was told that after lengthy investigations, Dutch police discovered Ennis had been in touch with fellow Irishman County while in Holland.
County is the only suspect who has given a statement to police about the death of Ennis.
He claims his fellow suspects McArdle and Brunell were responsible for the murder.
County and McArdle, who have each been convicted in Ireland on drug-related offences, had allegedly travelled to Holland to lie low.
The Dutch public prosecutor deemed County's statement as trustworthy and asked the court in April for 11 years imprisonment for McArdle and Brunell.
For County, the public prosecutor demanded a one-year prison sentence for helping to hide the body.
According to County, Ennis was murdered in an apartment in Rotterdam, where he came to socialize with County, McArdle and Brunell.
County told the police he stepped out to get liquor and when he came back, he found Ennis had been stabbed to death. According to County, a heated discussion during a PlayStation game had turned violent.
After that happened County, McArdle and Brunell worked together to dismember Ennis' corpse and to dump him in the water.
The Dutch court ruled that although some parts of County's statement were clearly supported by other available evidence, County most likely did not tell the whole truth.
Because of this, it could not be determined without doubt that McArdle and Brunell had killed Ennis.
Brunell and McArdle have denied any wrongdoing, saying County had dropped them off at a local strip club, hours before the murder took place. They say they never even met Ennis.
As murder could not be proven, the men were sentenced only because of their "gruesome and shameless treatment" of Ennis' body.
The Dutch judge ruled that "as long as there is a real possibility that a suspect is innocent, he needs to be acquitted, even if there are indications of wrongdoing".
The court heard that in an apartment in Rotterdam where both County and the victim had lived for a time and where McArdle and Brunell had stayed, Dutch police recovered a chainsaw without a blade hidden in a cupboard.
DNA from Ennis and McArdle were found on the chainsaw.
Ennis was in the drugs-trafficking business and police believed that County was working for him in the Netherlands, judges heard.
It was previously reported that those responsible for his murder were members of one of Dublin's most violent drugs gangs.
Ennis believed his life was in danger from gang leaders who suspected he had provided information to gardai 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 the venue for his wake and asked for his ashes to be divided between his mother and his fiancee.
County gave a statement to gardai and later to Dutch police that Brunell and McArdle were responsible for Ennis' killing.
In excerpts read out in court he said Ennis was on the run and they had shared a flat together in Rotterdam after he fled Ireland.
On February 7, 2009 a row broke out in the flat where McArdle and Brunell were also staying, while 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," he said.
"Barry told me that he took a knife and then stabbed Keith with it in his neck."
Maarten van Dun is a reporter with Dutch newspaper Het Parool
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