Thursday 17 October 2019

'Horror' of killing should not decide verdict, jury told

Dismembered body case needs 'unanimous' decision

Kenneth O'Brien
Kenneth O'Brien
Andrew Phelan

Andrew Phelan

The jury in the trial of Paul Wells for the killing of his friend Kenneth O'Brien has been given three verdict options: guilty of murder, guilty of manslaughter or an outright acquittal.

Mr Justice Paul McDermott said the 11 jurors would begin deliberations on Monday and must reach a unanimous verdict.

He told the Central Criminal Court there were disturbing elements of the case in relation to the disposal of Mr O'Brien's body but the "horror that might have been felt at what happened" should not determine the guilt or innocence of the accused.

Mr Wells (50) of Barnamore Park, Finglas, has pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr O'Brien (33) at that address between January 15 and 16, 2016.

He has admitted he shot him dead but said it happened when they struggled during a row after Mr O'Brien turned up at his home with a gun.

Grappled

The accused claimed Mr O'Brien had wanted to have his partner Eimear Dunne murdered, and Mr Wells refused to kill her.

As they grappled, he said, the gun fell to the ground and he thought Mr O'Brien was going to "shoot me first".

Mr Wells said he panicked, got the gun and shot Mr O'Brien in the back of the head. He then dismembered his body in the yard, cutting it into 10 pieces with a chainsaw.

He put Mr O'Brien's torso in a suitcase and his head and limbs in shopping bags, which he threw into the Grand Canal in Co Kildare.

In his closing speech, prosecutor Sean Gillane said Mr O'Brien was "executed efficiently" by Mr Wells in a premeditated murder and his body was "desecrated".

Mr O'Brien had been shot in the back of the head and the accused's suggestion he had acted in self-defence did not make sense, Mr Gillane argued.

He asked the jury to consider the "meticulousness" of the wrapping of the torso and the "almost professional" clean-up.

The evidence for a planned, pre-meditated execution did not add up, defence barrister Michael O'Higgins countered.

Mr O'Brien was a "deeply flawed character" who had shown a "disregard for life," Mr O'Higgins said. A friend, Patrick Bogey had made a statement saying he saw Mr O'Brien working on pipe bombs in his shed.

He told the jurors they should acquit Mr Wells if they conclude he acted "reasonably" in self-defence when he shot Mr O'Brien.

"It would be wrong to convict Mr Wells because you think he's despicable," he said.

"However aspects of the case might repulse you," he told the jury, they were duty bound to give the accused a fair trial.

Mr Justice McDermott delivered his charge to the jury, summarising the case and outlining the legal principles.

He said it could not be laid against the accused he did not give evidence, as this was his right. He also told the jury they must look at the facts of the case coldly.

"The main issue in the case is how the deceased died, how his death was brought about," he said.

Mr Justice McDermott added: "The horror that might have been felt at what happened shouldn't necessarily determine the guilt or innocence of Mr Wells."

Self-defence

A homicide was not murder if it was committed in reasonable self-defence. If the jury found Mr Wells honestly believed the level of force used was necessary to defend himself, but used greater force than a reasonable man would use, a verdict of murder could be reduced to manslaughter.

If they concluded he used more force than he knew to be reasonably necessary, he was guilty of murder.

And if it was found the force that was used was in the circumstances reasonably necessary "then you simply acquit", the judge said.

Earlier, the jury had heard that Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis found Mr O'Brien died from an "instantaneously fatal" gunshot wound to the head.

The contact entry wound showed the muzzle of the gun had been pressed against Mr O'Brien's head when it was fired.

The trial continues.

Irish Independent

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