John Dundon guilty of the murder of innocent rugby player Shane Geoghegan
JOHN Dundon has been found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison for his role in the shooting dead of rugby player Shane Geoghegan.
Dundon (31) ordered a botched gangland "hit" that led to the gunning down of Mr Geoghegan (28) near his Limerick home in a case of mistaken identity nearly five years ago.
The guilty verdict was delivered at the non-jury, three-judge Special Criminal Court this morning after a trial that lasted nearly a month.
Mr Geoghegan died after he was blasted five times by a semi-automatic handgun, including once in the back of the head, as he returned home from watching a rugby match at a friend's house.
The gunman, Barry Doyle, shot the victim mistakenly after Dundon had instructed him to kill another man, John "Pitchfork" McNamara, who lived nearby.
Dundon now faces life in jail, where he will join Doyle, who has already been convicted and sentenced for the killing.
The accused, with an address at Hyde Road, Limerick had denied murdering Mr Geoghegan at Clonmore, Kilteragh, Dooradoyle, Limerick on November 9, 2008.
Dundon, wearing a black Adidas tracksuit sat listening to music on headphones and showed no emotion as the verdict was delivered by Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns.
The decision was greeted by silence in the packed courtroom, where members of Mr Geoghegan's family were present.
Dundon entered the court with the headphones around his neck did not stand as the three judges entered the court today.
Before the judgement was read out, Brendan Nix SC, defending, asked Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns to recuse himself from the case.
He said this was because of remarks he had made at an appeal at a separate case in the Court of Criminal Appeal about ongoing gangland feuds that could create the "potential perception of bias".
Mr Justice Kearns rejected this as "preposterous" and proceeded with the judgement.
Dundon put his headphones on and sat with his chin resting on his hands, listening to rap music as the final 23 pages of the 84-page decision were read out.
He clutched the headphones more tightly to his ears as the judgement progressed.
Mr Justice Kearns said the case had been "all about credibility" and accepted the evidence of the prosecution witnesses.
Members of the Geoghegan family, including Shane's mother Mary, his brother Anthony , girlfriend Jenna Barry and aunt Margaret Walsh sat at the back of the courtroom as the verdict was read out.
Dundon never took the stand to give evidence during the trial. Brendan Nix SC, defending, suggested the evidence of key State witnesses in the trial was not credible.
However, the chief prosecution witness, April Collins, gave evidence of hearing Dundon order the killing of John McNamara, then "panicking" when he realised the wrong man had been shot.
Sean Guerin BL, prosecuting, had argued it was Dundon's "careless description" of the intended target that led to Mr Geoghegan's death.
“John Dundon bears direct responsibility for anyone who might have been passing being shot,” he said. “This carelessness tragically caused the death of Shane Geoghegan.”
During the trial, the court heard the car used by the killer was a Renault Espace that was stolen from outside a pub.
Lisa Collins and Christopher McCarthy admitted stealing car after being threatened by Dundon.
On the night of the murder, Mr Geoghegan, a Garryowen player, watched a rugby international match on TV. His girlfriend, Jenna Barry knew Shane was with his friend and the last she heard from him was a text received at 12.54am.
Within a few minutes of receiving the text, she heard shots, looked outside and saw a man in a navy hoodie run towards the car and hop into it.
Neighbours in the estate heard the shots, and also heard screaming and saw the getaway car leave.
Investigating gardai went to a passageway at a neighbour's house and found Shane Geoghegan lying on a patio step, showing no sign of life.
The Espace was later found burnt out in a nearby field.
A doctor arrived at the scene and pronounced Mr Geoghegan dead.
A post mortem examination found five gunshot wounds including a fatal one to the back of Mr Geoghegan's head and others to the left shoulder, right upper arm and across the abdomen.
April and her sister Lisa Collins and Christopher McCarthy were the central prosecution witnesses. April Collins had been in a relationship at the time with the accused's brother Gerard Dundon and Christopher McCarthy was the accused's first cousin.
April Collins said the night before the murder, she and Gerard Dundon were at the home of John Dundon and his partner Ciara Killeen.
Also present was Ciara Killeen's brother Nathan Killeen, Liam Casey and Barry Doyle. April Collins told how she heard John Dundon order Barry Doyle to kill John McNamara, giving a description of him.
She also heard him say he had sourced the gun and then assigned the shooting to one man and the job of driving the getaway car to another.
She was present the next morning when Dundon discovered the wrong man had been killed.
“John started panicking, giving out to Barry that it was the wrong man, not Johnny Mac,” she had said in evidence. “He was saying: ‘You hit the wrong man’. Barry was saying: ‘It is him. The way you described him, that’s the man I killed’.”
In cross-examination, the mother of four denied leading a "charmed life", saying she was under garda protection "24-7". She denied being "primed" by gardai in giving her evidence.
Lisa Collins (29) had been living with Christopher McCarthy. She gave evidence that she had previously heard John Dundon say to Barry Doyle: ‘We’re going to kill the c**t’ - referring to John McNamara.
Lisa Collins gave evidence that Dundon put pressure on her and McCarthy to steal the Espace but she did not know why.
On the night of the murder, Barry Doyle and John Dundon came to the house. Dundon told Christopher McCarthy: "John Mac is dead".
The next day, she heard of the shooting of Mr Geoghegan, later saw an image of the car on "crime call" on TV and "at that moment she felt sick" because she realised it was the car that was stolen.
The court heard both Lisa Collins and Christopher McCarthy had been granted immunity from prosecution.
Dundon's trial had been beset by delays and had originally been due to get underway in June, but the accused sought to have it deferred in both the High Court and the Supreme Court.
At the last minute, Dundon dramatically sacked his entire legal team, but the court ordered that it proceed with new counsel. It was further stalled when key witness April Collins was hospitalised. Dundon was also taken to hospital when he fell and suffered a head injury in his cell but was deemed medically fit to stand trial.
Today's verdict was reached by Mr Justice Kearns, Judge John O’Hagan and Judge William Hamill.
Speaking after today’s verdict, Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan welcomed the conviction of John Dundon for Shane Geoghegan’s murder.
Comm Callinan said the force’s thoughts and prayers are with the family of Mr Geoghegan and they were aware of what a difficult day it has been for them.
The commissioner also stated that the investigation demonstrated clearly the “determination of the Garda Siochana to pursue fully, individuals or groups involved in this type of serious crime” and today’s verdict “endorses the capacity of the State to deal with the most serious and difficult criminal cases”.
He also congratulated officers involved “in this painstaking and lengthy investigation”.
By Andrew Phelan