Monday 26 February 2018

Cries in court as third man (31) convicted of the same gangland murder after jury deliberates for just 100 minutes

Shay O'Byrne and girlfriend Sharon Rattigan
Shay O'Byrne and girlfriend Sharon Rattigan
Seamus O'Byrne Pic: Collins
Sharon Rattigan. Pic: Courtpix

Eoin Reynolds

A Dublin man became the third person sentenced to life imprisonment for the same gangland murder at the Central Criminal Court today.

Gary Flynn, (31) of Rossfield Drive in Tallaght had pleaded not guilty to the murder of Seamus Shay O'Byrne at the victim's home in Tallaght on March 13, 2009.

After a nine-week trial and nine hours of the judge's summary, it took the jury just one hour and forty minutes to convict Mr Flynn of murder.

When the verdict was read out Mr Flynn's girlfriend, mother and family members cried audibly and hugged him before he was taken away to begin a mandatory life sentence. Mr O'Byrne's family and his girlfriend Sharon Rattigan, who was also shot by the gunman who murdered her boyfriend, left the court quietly to finish writing a victim impact statement.

Mr O'Byrne's sister Charis, who was married just ten weeks after her brother's murder, read the statement to the court.

She said: "Seamus is missed every day by all of us in so many ways. My mam misses everything that a fun, caring firstborn son brought to her life. Shay had a great relationship with my dad and the loss of his eldest son and best friend has been truly devastating. A cloud of sadness follows him and he misses him more every day."

Charis spoke of how Seamus had been a "rock" for their brother Rob when he was left in a wheelchair after a diving accident in 2005. "Seamus helped him in every way," she said. "Physically, mentally, emotionally. He was his rock, his best friend and joker. Nothing was too much for his younger brother."

She continued: "Most brothers share a strong bond but Seamus's death seven years ago shattered a truly special bond."

Speaking of her own loss, she said that his death had left a "gaping hole" in her life and an empty chair at every family celebration. She added that Sharon's loss is almost impossible to comprehend. "How Sharon gets through this we do not know," she said. "To witness the event herself and be shot is traumatic enough. To have lost the mainstay of her life must be incredibly difficult to even try to come to terms with."

Once the statement was completed Justice Patrick McCarthy turned to Mr Flynn and said: "I hereby sentence you to life imprisonment." He backdated the sentence to October 2013 when Mr Flynn was first arrested and detained by police in Northern Ireland on foot of a European Arrest Warrant.

During the trial, prosecution counsel Alex Owens SC, told the jury that Mr Flynn was not the gunman who shot Mr O'Byrne four times before turning the gun on his girlfriend Sharon Rattigan.

Another man, Garrett O'Brien of Cloverhill in Bray, was convicted in November 2012 for the shooting. Giving her evidence at the start of the trial, Sharon Rattigan described how a gunman appeared outside their home as she and Seamus prepared to drive to her mother's house. The gunman opened fire, shooting Mr O'Byrne four times before Sharon tackled him. Mr O'Brien fired again, hitting Sharon in the leg, but she fought on and both of them toppled over a garden wall. Mr O'Brien fled, but not before Ms Rattigan had taken his gun, and his mobile phone and a can of Red Bull had spilled from his pocket.

The phone was later used to finger Mr O'Brien as the shooter and to link other members of the gang to the murder plot.

A second man, Eugene Cullen, was convicted in March 2014 for his role in organising the murder. Mr Cullen has since died in custody.

Mr Flynn was convicted after the jury heard that he was seen on CCTV traveling in a car with Mr Cullen less than two hours before the murder. The pair were then captured on camera again at Leisureplex in Coolock 30 minutes after the murder.

Much of the prosecution case was based on mobile phone evidence and CCTV footage collected by various gardai and compiled by crime analyst Sarah Skedd. Ms Skedd took the stand on March 2 and 3rd and detailed how a number of mobile phones interacted with one another on the day of the murder.

One in particular, which was dubbed the "Topaz Phone" by Mr Owens, linked Mr Flynn to the murder plot. Garda Michael McGrath viewed CCTV footage which showed Mr Flynn buying credit for the phone at a Topaz garage on the Fortfield Road less than two hours before the shooting.

The same phone then made and received dozens of calls to other phones known to have been used by the murder gang. Using phone mapping technology, Ms Skedd was able to trace the Topaz phone as it traveled across south Dublin, towards Tallaght and, after the murder, to Coolock at the time when Mr Flynn and Mr Cullen arrived at Leisureplex. It stopped working a short time later.

When Mr Flynn was stopped by gardai later that night travelling back to the Southside with Mr Cullen, the Topaz Phone was not in the car.

Forensic evidence also played a part. Liam Fleury of the Forensic Science Institute told Mr Owens that he found particles of gunshot residue on a grey hoodie that Mr Flynn was wearing when he was arrested. His fingerprints were also found on another vehicle that gardai believed had been used by the gang in the days leading up to the shooting.

Read More: Man who murdered dad in front of baby son jailed for life 

Read More: Man sentenced to life in prison for murder of father-of-two

Online Editors

Promoted Links

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News