Saturday 23 September 2017

‘Too many coincidences’ in trial of accused gunman

Jessica Magee

THE JURY in a trial of a man accused of attempted murder has been told there are "too many coincidences" to leave any doubt as to his guilt.

Shane Mason (30) of Sean Heuston Place in Limerick, has pleaded not guilty to shooting teenager Daniel Philips at St John's Square in the city just over two years ago.



He's also denied causing serious harm to Mr Philips, or posessing a gun and ammunition with intent to endanger his life on the same date, 24th May 2010.



The court heard that Danny Philips, now aged 20, has made a remarkable recovery since he was shot in the head and chest while driving through St John's Square with friends.



In her closing speech, prosecuting counsel Ms Úna Ní Raifertaigh SC invited the jury to consider all the evidence as “pieces of a jigsaw puzzle” which, put together, leave no room for doubt as to Shane Mason's guilt.



She said evidence shows that the shooting took place at about 9.26 pm, and that CCTV footage depicts Shane Mason cycling towards the scene minutes earlier at 9.24 pm and cycling rapidly away four minutes later at 9.28pm.



The jury was also reminded that Shane Mason was captured on CCTV footage earlier that day in O'Sullivan's Pharmacy wearing a blue Lonsdale t-shirt and navy bottoms, and that five different eye-witnesses said the gunman had worn a blue t-shirt and dark bottoms.



Ms Úna Ní Raifertaigh SC said the fact that Shane Mason's blue t-shirt and navy bottoms were found damp in his girlfriend's washing machine about an hour after the shooting suggest that he had stripped off all his clothes and put them in the wash – except for his underpants.



She reminded the jury that gunshot residue had been found in the waistband of Shane Mason's underpants and on both of his hands.



The jury were also told that two different eye-witnesses described seeing the gunman tucking the gun down the front of his trousers after the shooting.



Ms Ní Raifertaigh said Shane Mason had been identified leaving the scene by witness Emer O'Connell, who said she knew him “very well, since I was 14 years old.”



The jury were also reminded that local butcher George Russell told gardaí that he had seen “one of the Masons” cycling very fast from the scene, wearing a blue t-shirt.



The prosecution also claimed that CCTV footage proves Shane Mason was lying when he told arresting gardaí that he “hadn't stirred” from his girlfriend's house all day.



However Mr Justice Garret Sheehan pointed out that “people can lie for many reasons other than guilt, including shame, panic and confusion,” and that the jury must be satisfied that there is no innocent explanation for those lies before relying on them.



Mr Justice Sheehan also told the jury that while a number of witnesses claimed to have identified Shane Mason, it has happened in the past that responsible witnesses have made mistakes in identification.



Defence Counsel Mr Anthony Sammon SC told the jury that the so-called jigsaw put forward by the prosecution was “full of holes” and that no eye-witness had ever said they had seen Shane Mason open fire in the square.



Mr Sammon also cast doubt on the evidence of two key witnesses, including resident Emer O'Connell who had identified Shane Mason.



“The unfortunate young lady was a heroin addict; would you trust her to babysit your children? If not, you can't rely on her evidence,” he said.



He also said that another “unfortunate” witness to the shooting was described by his mother as having special needs.



Mr Sammon warned the jury against deducing that Shane Mason was “some sort of a player” just because he was wearing a bullet proof vest when he was arrested, although he accepted that “ordinary people don't wear bullet proof vests”.



Mr Justice Garret Sheehan is due to finish charging the jury of seven men and five women tomorrow morning.



The jury is then expected to retire to consider its verdict.



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