Kenneth O’Brien transferred €52k into murder accused Paul Wells' bank account before he was killed, court hears
KENNETH O’Brien transferred more than €52,000 into murder accused Paul Wells bank account over the space of 18 months before he was killed, a jury has heard.
Mr O’Brien had been working in Australia when he sent the money, mostly through a foreign exchange service, to Mr Wells.
The Central Criminal Court also heard Mr O’Brien told his boss he could not go to an arranged job in Limerick the day before he went missing because he “had to look after some business.”
The next day, his torso was found in a suitcase in the Grand Canal.
Mr Wells (50), of Barnamore Park, Finglas, has pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr O’Brien at that address between January 15 and 16, 2016.
He admitted to gardai that 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.
The accused claimed Mr O’Brien (33) had wanted to have his own partner Eimear Dunne murdered and Mr Wells refused to kill her.
He said after he shot Mr O’Brien, he “panicked” and dismembered the remains, which were later found in a suitcase and shopping bags in the canal in Co Kildare.
Mr O’Brien was “an exceptional worker in every respect,” a former employer Declan Porter said in evidence today. He kept in touch with Mr O’Brien when he went to work in Australia in 2013. He agreed with prosecutor Sean Gillane SC that he was aware Mr O’Brien was seeing someone in Australia but he “wouldn’t delve into his private affairs.”
He thought Mr O’Brien had said he was coming home to stay in 2016, but after being away for three years “I wasn’t sure he was going to come back.”
He collected some tools that Mr O’Brien had sent home in a crate from Australia. Mr Porter was glad to hear Mr O’Brien was coming home because “I could have done with him in our company.”
In the week that he returned, Mr Porter asked Mr O’Brien if he would come back to work with him and he “wasn’t sure what he was going to do.”
He told the jury Mr O’Brien was due to go to a job arranged in Limerick on January 12 and 13, 2016. This was re-arranged for Friday, January 15 but the day before, he got a call from Mr O’Brien “saying that he wouldn’t be able, that he had to look after some business.”
That was the last time he spoke to him.
As he was returning from Limerick, he got a call from Ms Dunne who was looking for Mr O’Brien and he told her he had not come with them and had “made arrangements to do something else.”
Mr Porter tried several times to ring Mr O’Brien after that but the phone was “off or out of coverage.” Over the next few days he received information that Mr O’Brien’s remains had been found in the canal.
In cross examination, Michael O’Higgins SC, defending, said Mr O’Brien had no plans to work in Ireland in the near future.
“When he returned, yes,” Mr Porter said, but added that Mr O’brien had volunteered to do a job for him.
He said Mr O’Brien was only back a short time and “getting his bearings about what he was going to do.”
He agreed in his statement he had described Mr O’Brien as “a secretive type of guy, if he wanted you to know something he would tell you.”
Mr O’Higgins said it seemed Mr O’Brien was not much of a drinker but tended to be “all or nothing” and asked if that went over into other areas of his life.
“I wouldn’t think so,” he replied.
Mr O’Higgins said in his statement, Mr Porter said he had called Mr O’Brien on January 14, 2016 to tell him he did not need him for the Limerick job. Mr O’Higgins asked him which was correct.
“I think it ended up that if he had other arrangements for that day then we didn’t need him,” he said.
When Ms Dunne rang him she was under the impression that Mr Porter was collecting Mr O’Brien from their Lealand Road, Clondalkin home for the job at 2pm that day, but there was no such arrangement.
Mr Porter agreed with Mr O’Higgins that Mr O’Brien had showed him some photos of “an African girl he was apparently doing a line with.” This was in 2014 or 2015.
Gda Supt Gerard Wall said one of the early lines of enquiry in the investigation related to the transfer of money to Ireland by Mr O’Brien while he was in Australia.
He sought evidence from a number of bank accounts; Mr O’Brien’s Permanent TSB account at Ballyfermot Shopping Centre, his account at the Ulster Bank Mortgage Centre, an AIB account of Lorraine Leeson (Mr O’Brien’s aunt), his father Gerard O’Brien’s AIB account, a PTSB account of Eimear Dunne, and the accused’s PTSB account, as well as his credit union account.
The court heard Mr O’Brien had transferred €52,000 “and change” into Mr Wells’ account over 18 months .
Garda John Faherty said €47,900 of this was through a foreign exchange company Currency Fair, with the rest from another account held by Mr O’Brien.
Fintan Byrne of Currency Fair said Mr O’Brien’s first account log in was on December 18, 2013 and his most recent was on January 12, 2016.
There was a log in from Dubai Airport which was consistent with somebody travelling back and forth, he said.
The jury then heard a breakdown of the series of Currency Fair transfers to Mr Wells’ account between June 2014 and November 20, 2015, totalling €47,925.
As well as this, a total of €8,000 was transferred to Gerard O’Brien, €2,700 to Lorraine Leeson, €23,982 to Eimear Dunne, and over €11,000 to Mr O’Brien’s own account.
Yvonne Traynor of PTSB Crime and Loss Prevention then told the jury of a series of bank withdrawals totalling tens of thousands of euros the accused made in December 2015 and January 2016. These were up to €5,000 at a time, with further withdrawals from an ATM minutes later.
The trial continues before Mr Justice Paul McDermott and a jury.
- Read more here: Murder accused Paul Wells 'told son not to come home night before victim went missing' - court hears