Monday 25 March 2019

Gardai failed to find €2.7m of drugs and gun stashed in bed during search of house, court hears

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Alison O’Riordan

Gardai failed to find millions of euro in drugs and an assault rifle stashed in a bed when they carried out a search of a house during a "very fast-moving operation", the Special Criminal Court has heard.

In her opening address, prosecution counsel Fiona Murphy SC said that the owner of the property later came to clear out the premises and found “what appeared to be a large amount of controlled drugs and a firearm" at the base of a bed.

Michael Brady (54), with an address at Brookfield Grove, Blackrock, Co Dublin is charged with possessing €1.5 million worth of cocaine, €1.26 million worth of heroin, an assault rife and more than 180 rounds of ammunition at a property at Sallins Bridge, in Sallins, Co Kildare on January 24, 2017.

Mr Brady has pleaded not guilty to all nine counts on the indictment.

It is the State's case that forensic evidence links Mr Brady to some of the items found at Sallins Bridge and to the address itself.

Inspector Keith Halley, of the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau (GNDOCB), today told prosecution counsel Fiona Murphy SC that he became aware of an incident that had occurred at Greenogue Business Park, Rathcoole, Co Dublin on January 24 and as part of that investigation he was tasked with obtaining six search warrants.

Insp Halley said that he was present at the house at Sallins Bridge at 4.45pm when Sergeant Stephen Mullen entered the premises with a search warrant.

Under cross-examination by Dominic McGinn SC, defending, Insp Halley agreed that there had been a “serious finding” of 15 firearms at Greenogue Business Park that morning and as a result there could have been evidence connected with this at Sallins Bridge.

Sergeant Stephen Mullen gave evidence that he was in possession of a search warrant for Sallins Bridge and used a key to enter the house at 4.45pm that day.

No occupants were in the house at the time and two rounds of ammunition were found on a leather chair in the dining room during the search, he explained. The witness said the search was terminated at 7pm that day and he left the property.

Garda Mark O’Neill said he found two rounds of ammunition at the back of the chair in the dining room and placed them in evidence bags.

Under cross-examination by Mr McGinn, defending, Gda O’Neill agreed that the rounds of ammunition were “tucked” into the back of the chair and that it is standard practice to be “as thorough as possible” when conducting a search. “You would have to put your hands in and separate where the chair and the back of the chair meet,” he explained.

Sergeant Darren Coller said he searched a bedroom at Sallins Bridge on January 24 which appeared to be occupied and had observed an “Alcoholics Anonymous” book. A passport in the name of another man was inside this book, he said. Sgt Coller agreed with the prosecution that a photograph of the accused man was in this passport.

Garda Marguerite Reilly gave evidence that she took part in the search of Sallins Bridge and had searched underneath the stairs, the sitting room as well as a small bedroom.

Gda Reilly said she searched two large black bags in the bedroom and they contained mechanical equipment. She agreed with Ms Murphy that she found nothing of evidential value during the course of the search.

Under cross-examination by Mr McGinn, defending, Gda Reilly said she did not search underneath the bed in the bedroom.

The witness said she only searched inside two refuge bags before she left the house at Sallins Bridge and went to another search site.

“It was a very fast-moving operation and we had to react to information received to go to another search site,” she said, adding that in error, she did not brief anyone before she left the premises as to what search she had carried out in the bedroom.

Mr McGinn put it to the witness that it was the DPP’s contention that an assault rifle, various ammunition and drugs were found in this bedroom.

“You missed the fact that all these unlawful items may or may not have been in the bedroom at the time?” asked Mr McGinn. The witness replied that she had not searched the bed.

In her opening address to the court, prosecution counsel Fiona Murphy SC said the owner of the property at Sallins Bridge came to clear out the premises four days later, on January 28. Ms Murphy said the owner found what appeared to be a large amount of controlled drugs and a firearm at the base of one of the beds.

A further search warrant was obtained and gardaí found €1.5 million worth of cocaine, €1.26 million worth of heroin and €1,000 worth of cannabis. Gardaí also seized a 7.62 x 39mm calibre VZ 58 assault rifle and a variety of ammunition, said Ms Murphy.

Earlier, judges at the Special Criminal Court ruled that the arrest and detention of Mr Brady was lawful.

Opening the case on Tuesday, Ms Murphy said that the property at Sallins Bridge was under surveillance as part of a wider garda operation concerning activities at Greenogue Business Park, Rathcoole, Co Dublin.

The court has heard that three men, Declan Brady (52), with an address at The Park, Wolstan Abbey, Celbridge, Co Kildare, Jonathan Harding (45) of McNeill Court, Sallins, Co Kildare and James Walsh (33), with an address at Neilstown Drive, Clondalkin, Dublin 22 were arrested at Greenogue Business Park earlier that morning at around 11.30am.

Last month, Declan Brady who is the brother of Michael Brady, pleaded guilty to possessing 15 firearms and more than 4,000 rounds of ammunition at Greenogue Business Park on the day in question. He is awaiting sentence.

In January, Harding and Walsh were sentenced to ten years and nine years imprisonment for what the Special Criminal Court called a "lethal arsenal" of weapons including four loaded guns.

The trial continues on Tuesday before Mr Justice Paul Coffey, presiding, sitting with Judge Gerard Griffin and Judge David McHugh.

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