Tuesday 17 September 2019

Daughter of Noel 'Duck Egg' Kirwan describes pain following his murder

Noel ‘Duck Egg’ Kirwan
Noel ‘Duck Egg’ Kirwan

Alison O’Riordan

The daughter of Noel ‘Duck Egg’ Kirwan who was murdered in the driveway of his Dublin home has told the Special Criminal Court that the “only thing” her dad was guilty of was “showing his respect” at a childhood friend’s funeral.

“People like this should remember it’s not the people who are killed that suffer it’s the families who are left behind,” she said.

Donna Kirwan described her dad as a “grafter” and said that while some of his friends chose to make money the easy way by selling drugs, her father chose to work for a living because that was how he was raised.

The three-judge court also heard that Mr Kirwan’s son and daughter talked about ending their lives in the aftermath of their father’s death because neither of them could see another way out of the pain and suffering.

The testimony was heard as part of a victim impact statement read by a woman from victim support on behalf of Donna Kirwan to the court during Jason Keating's sentence hearing today.

The non-jury court also heard that the defendant Jason Keating was present at the scene of the shooting in Clondalkin, had a role of "real significance" and had facilitated the man who discharged the firearm. A 'Gotek7’ tracking device was put under Mr Kirwan's car in the weeks leading up to his killing and this could be linked to Keating in the days preceding the murder.

Mr Kirwan was sitting in his new Ford Mondeo car on December 22, 2016 when a gunman shot him six times with a Makarov handgun which was later recovered at the scene.

The 62-year-old, a “long-time” friend of Gerry “the Monk” Hutch, suffered eight gunshot wounds in total to his head, right arm, chest and abdomen. The murder of Mr Kirwan arose from a "notorious feud" between two criminal factions but the deceased had no connection with either side.

Jason Keating (27), of Lower Main Street, Rush, Co Dublin admitted last month to participating in or contributing to activity intending to facilitate the commission by a criminal organisation or any of its members of a serious offence, namely the murder of Mr Kirwan at St Ronan’s Drive, Clondalkin, Dublin 22 between December 20 and 22 2016, both dates inclusive.

The offence is contrary to organised crime legislation brought in by Section 72 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006.

Keating was originally tried for the murder of Mr Kirwan but midway through his trial on October 18 he pleaded guilty to facilitating a criminal organisation in committing murder and this plea was accepted by the DPP.

Paul Greene SC, prosecuting, asked the court to enter a “nolle prosequi” on the original charge of murder. This means the State will not be proceeding with the prosecution in relation to the count of murder.

Mr Greene said today that the activities by the criminal organisation can be traced back to early November 2016 but Keating's individual contribution began on December 20.

Donna Kirwan, Mr Kirwan’s daughter, said in her victim impact statement today that December 22 started off as a normal day for the family but it turned into their “worst nightmare”.

Ms Kirwan said she was expecting a call from her father that day but instead she received a call on his phone from Bernadette’s daughter, Carolyn, who sounded in a state of panic and told her she had to come straight out to Clondalkin as Noel had been shot.

“I just remember screaming for somebody to help and a man who works on my floor came running towards me, he grabbed his keys and we ran to his car. I felt like we were in traffic for hours because everyone was out doing their Christmas shopping. I rang Carolyn back on my dad's phone and she said they were working on him in the ambulance,” she said.

Ms Kirwan said she jumped from the car when they arrived at the scene and began screaming asking people to tell her dad that she was there.

“I asked them where my dad was and Carolyn said ‘I’m so sorry Donna he didn’t make it’. I couldn’t take in what she was saying to me. I begged the police men to let me see him but they said they were sorry that they couldn’t,” she said.

Ms Kirwan said she was carried into a neighbour’s house and told not to look to her left as her dad was lying on the ground. “They just kept saying don’t look”, she remarked.

“I remember standing there later on watching his body being removed from the scene. The pain I felt that night will never leave me. I kept asking people over and over is this really happening, is this real. I remember thinking in the middle of it all how am I going to tell Kristopher my brother who lives in Manchester, how will he react and how will I get him home,” the court heard.

Ms Kirwan said Kristopher was in work waiting to finish his job for the Christmas holidays when he received a message from a friend to call him straight away. “When his friend told him, he laughed and said my dad’s a 62-year-old man who would want to shoot him, you must be mistaken. It was then he called me and asked if it was true, I will never forget his screams for as long as I live,” said Ms Kirwan.

Ms Kirwan said she organised a lift to pick her brother up from the airport the following day but the airport was full of people being greeted by family members coming home for Christmas. “My brother was coming home to identify his father’s body,” she said.

It wasn’t until Christmas Eve that Ms Kirwan got to see her father in the morgue. “The guilt we felt that day having to leave him there. We made our way from there to Liffey Valley Shopping Centre to pick the last of my sons Christmas toys up. What was supposed to be one of the happiest days of the year for my family was like being in a horror film for us, painting smiles on our faces trying to make the day as special as we could for my little boy who had just been told the day before that his grandad had died, trying to shield him from the true facts of what had happened knowing it was going to be all over the papers,” she said.

Ms Kirwan said her brother managed to make a Christmas dinner but they felt too guilty to eat it. “Instead we sat looking at each other in complete and utter shock,” she said.

"This was the first Christmas in eight years since my Mam's passing that we were all looking forward to," she said. Instead of ringing in the new year with her neighbours, she and her brother were inside looking at her father in a coffin saying their final goodbyes.

Ms Kirwan said she knows what losing a parent feels like as they lost their mother ten years ago to cancer but this pain was different.

“This pain was unbearable, so unbearable that we both sat down and talked about ending both our lives because neither of us could see another way out of this pain and suffering. But then we thought, how could we inflict such pain on our loved ones when we know too well what it feels like. Our dad was all we had, he was our friend and our safety net, he was supposed to walk me down the aisle one day,” she said.

Growing up her father always had two jobs, she said, and he worked morning and night to make sure his family had everything they needed and never went without. “He would give a helping hand to anyone who needed it.  He was a very kind man who would give you the clothes off his back if he thought you needed them," she said.

“We have been stripped of everything. We are a shell of the people we both once were. It has destroyed us. We struggle to close our eyes at night without visualising what went on that night and what he felt in those last moments. We will never get our heads around this nightmare,” she said.

The court heard that Bernadette Roe had also prepared a victim impact statement but asked for it not to be read aloud and instead be handed into the court to be considered by the three judges.

At today’s sentence hearing Inspector Mark O'Neill, responsible for the Neilstown area, summarised the facts of the case.

Insp O'Neill agreed with prosecuting counsel Paul Greene SC that Mr Kirwan lived for many years in the north inner city and had friends there. In the last number of years he had resided at Bernadette Roe's house in Clondalkin who was his partner.

Ms Roe was in the passenger seat of Mr Kirwan’s car at the time of the attack. They had just returned from a Christmas lunch in a Crumlin restaurant and driven into their driveway at 5.07pm when a man approached the car and discharged a number of shots into the vehicle. Mr Kirwan's cause of death was multiple gunshot wounds. Ms Roe was uninjured and she raised the alarm with a number of neighbours coming to her aid.

Det Sgt Damien Gannon was involved in the investigation and he found a tracking device on Mr Kirwan's Ford Mondeo, the court heard. CCTV footage had been harvested from St Ronan's Drive and it showed a Peugeot van arriving at that address some hours prior to the murder. This getaway vehicle was later found on fire at the rear of Neilstown Shopping Centre in Clondalkin, just a minute’s drive from St Ronan’s Drive.  

Insp O'Neill agreed that the 'Gotek7' tracking device was manufactured in France, had booted up with a default reading of Hyde Park in London and arrived at Dublin Port on October 20, 2016.

The device pinged off an address in Dublin, which was significant as it is believed the manager of the tracking device, who is not before the court, has a connection with the recorded area. The manager's laptop was later found at an address in the Sandyford area.

The tracking device was fitted to the undercarriage of Mr Kirwan's BMW on November 8 and remained on it until December 20 when the car was removed to Merlin Car Auctions. Mr Kirwan changed his car on December 13 and replaced it with a Ford Mondeo.

Gardai noted the arrival of a Renault Megane car at Merlin Motors on December 20 and were satisfied it was owned by Keating who sold it on shortly afterwards. The court heard Keating and his partner were observed arriving at Merlin Motors and heading towards the area where people can view cars which are up for auction.

Mr Greene said the tracking device was moved from Merlin Motors to an area in the vicinity of the accused's family home in Crumlin on December 21 before it was moved back to St Ronan's Drive and placed on Mr Kirwan's new car.

Relevant phone numbers connected to the defendant pinged off relevant cell sites, the court heard, and packaging for one of these handsets was found in Keating's home.

Gardai learned that the device was programmed to report when Mr Kirwan's car moved and the recording "increased dramatically" from a four hour period to every 30 seconds when Mr Kirwan was driving home from the restaurant in Crumlin, just minutes before he was murdered.

The court heard that Keating was one of the two men in the Peugeot van at St Ronan's Drive, was in contact with the person monitoring the tracker's movements on a laptop and had been providing this information via a phone to the assailant who had approached Mr Kirwan's car and discharged the firearm. "It is believed the mobile numbers used by Keating enabled a third party to carry out the shooting," added Insp O'Neill.

Two men were captured on CCTV at Neilstown Shopping Centre in the aftermath of the shooting and one of the men is believed to be Keating, remarked the witness.

The court heard that the father-of-three has 25 previous convictions which include road traffic and public order offences and he has been in custody since May 2, 2017.

Mr Justice Tony Hunt, presiding, said Keating had provided "proximate assistance" to others at a higher level.

Insp O'Neill agreed with Mr Greene that Keating was present at the scene, had provided assistance and facilitated the man who had discharged the firearm. "My belief is that he was near the scene and centrally involved," said the witness.

Mr Greene commented that Keating had a role of "real significance" at which point Mr Justice Hunt interjected saying that while the defendant had "a substantial role it perhaps fell short of the height of it".

The barrister told the court that the maximum sentence for such an offence is 15 years in prison.

Insp O'Neill stated that it was important to point out that Mr Kirwan had "absolutely no involvement" in crime. He agreed with Mr Greene that he was associated with someone by the media at a funeral and for that reason he was targeted to be killed by a criminal gang.

Defence counsel Michael Bowman SC, for Keating, said his client had been on the periphery of crime in the past and was not known to be a person associated with any criminal organisation.

Mr Bowman submitted to the court that the defendant's engagement had been from December 20 whilst the device had been imported into the country in early November. Mr Bowman said that a plea is always worthy of consideration and his client's family were decent people.

Counsel handed into the court a number of testimonials, which, he said showed Keating left school with very little formal education and was practically functioning at an illiterate level. "He is an enhanced prisoner and is moving through the prison system very well," said Mr Bowman.

The barrister asked the judges for a sentence appropriate to the offence as well as being appropriate to the offender.

Mr Justice Hunt, presiding, sitting with Judge Sinead Ni Chualachain and Judge Cormac Dunne, remanded Keating in custody until December 12, when he will be sentenced.

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