Father-of-one Kenneth O’Brien was “executed efficiently” and his body “desecrated” by his friend Paul Wells in a pre-meditated murder, the lead prosecutor in the trial has said.
In his closing speech, Sean Gillane SC told the jurors they had been invited down a rabbit hole of “lies and deceit” in the hope that they would not see clearly what the case was about.
Mr O’Brien had been shot in the back of the head and the accused's suggestion that he acted in self defence did not make sense, Mr Gillane argued.
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 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 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, they both reached for it 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. 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.
Evidence for the prosecution closed today. The accused himself did not take the stand but one defence witness gave evidence and three more statements were read out to the jury.
Edward Bowe told the jury he was a childhood friend of the accused and they grew up in Fatima Mansions. He stepped away after Mr Wells “got involved with paramilitaries” in the mid 1990s, he said.
He knew of Mr O’Brien and met him twice, he said. Mr Wells told him Mr O’Brien had moved to Australia and on one occasion showed him a picture of Mr O’Brien on a bed, topless and smiling.
Michael O’Higgins SC, defending, then read out three further witness statements.
Patrick Bogey said in his statement he had been Mr O’Brien’s best friend and they were “like brothers.” He recalled an incident in which Mr O’Brien asked him to go to his house quickly because he was worried a man was “coming to shoot me.”
He was told to wait at the window of a bedroom where there was a licenced firearm and wait for a hand signal from Mr O’Brien.
He heard Mr O’Brien say “come on, do what you f**king want” before the man left.
Mr Bogey said he knew Mr Wells was “ropey and dangerous” and sometimes when he would walk in as Mr Wells and Mr O’Brien were talking, they would “go quiet.”
He described another incident in which he walked into Mr O’Brien’s shed and saw him throw a rag over something he was working on and he “knew they were pipe bombs.”
Mr Bogey could not say for sure who this work was for and said he told Mr O’Brien “if you are hiding this from me, what else are you doing?”
Mr O’Brien had told him: “I’m just doing a favour,” he said.
Aisling Walsh, from Douglas in Cork, told gardai in her statement of a relationship she had with Mr O’Brien while she was working in Australia.
After meeting him in a bar in July 2013, it “developed very quickly” from there and they moved in together.
However, the relationship was secret and Mr O’Brien told her his partner Eimear Dunne would not let him see his son Charlie if she found out.
She said they went on holiday to Bali in March 2014 and argued over the relationship. Later, Mr O’Brien told her “we are finished.”
He still owed money on their rented apartment but blocked her number she said. She sent Ms Dunne a Facebook message saying “you had a lucky escape not to be with Ken.”
After this, Ms Walsh said, Mr O’Brien paid over his half of the lease.
Another witness, Rita Dempsey, told gardai she was passing Mr O’Brien’s house at Leland Road, Clondalkin at 11 or 11.30am on January 15, 2016 and remembered looking in and seeing a woman with long hair sitting at a table.
Mr Gillane then delivered his closing speech, saying the body of evidence established beyond reasonable doubt that Mr Wells murdered Mr O’Brien and did so in “an act of pre-meditation where he intended to kill him or at least cause him serious harm.”
“In this case you have been invited to travel down a rabbit hole of lies, deceit and obfuscation,” he said.
“You were invited down that rabbit hole in the hope that you will not see clearly what in fact this case is about.”
He said unusually in the case, the gardai had first to ascertain not who the suspect might be but who the victim was.
“This was a case that started with a body with no head and then a head with no hands, a case whose original building blocks come from the DNA of Mr O’Brien’s mother,” Mr Gillane said.
There followed “boring spadework” so the gardai could “show some light into this darkness.”
When the accused on February 9, 2016 “suddenly decides to talk and at least accept physical responsibility for what he’s done,” the jury might think this was a man who was now going to tell the truth out of sympathy or sorrow for killing Mr O’Brien.
“What you saw is not a product of conscience,” he said. “What you saw in terms of him partially taking responsibility was the crushing weight of evidence.”
“This isn’t conscience at all, those tears were not tears of sorrow… what you see in that interview thereafter is Mr Wells doing what he’s been doing from the moment he pulled the trigger on Kenneth O’Brien, exercising control, control and manipulation from the word go.”
He said Mr Wells had sought to demonise Mr O’Brien.
Mr Gillane said he was not going to suggest that Mr O’Brien was a saint, but it was clear he could inspire “love, affection and loyalty from people he knew.” It was also clear he could hurt people he knew, whether through affairs, inconsiderateness or meanness.
He asked the jury a rhetorical question: “so what?” and suggested this was a “smokescreen.”
“Just because you are having affairs doesn’t dilute your essential humanity,” he said.
No did it mean you had planned to murder the mother of your child, Mr Gillane continued.
Ms Dunne had never sought to minimise any of that aspect of Mr O’Brien’s life, she had “looked it in the eye” and answered difficult questions.
“When the tear came to her eye in the evidence, it was fought back,” she said. It was suggested that a plan was afoot to murder her and this was an attempt to explain and justify “the physical act of shooting a man dead.”
He said if the jury stress tested it, it “just doesn’t make any sense, it doesn’t stand up.”
“It appears to be nonsense wrapped in self defeating contradictions throughout,” he said.
Mr O’Brien had been presented as a “playboy of the western world” or a “lothario” who “decides to make himself a single parent through an act of violence.”
He said on the day the accused said they arranged to meet but Mr Wells said he went home, Mr O’Brien supposedly made “no contact with Mr Wells at all.”
He said the plan suggested was for Mr O’Brien to “spirit Charlie away,” yet he had no car, no key and no wallet.
He said Mr O’Brien apparently arrived at Mr Wells house with just “the clothes on his back” and a “gun in his waistband.”
He said at this point Mr O’Brien is the “unluckiest man in the world” because Mr Well’s wife is away in Cork and his son Gary has been told not to be at home.
Mr Wells account of how the row comes to pass is “impressionistic,” Mr Gillane said, and he then described the two men “flipping head over heels” and arriving in “a rowing boat position.”
“Mr Wells now in interview has to explain how it is that someone gets shot in the back of the head in self defence,” Mr Gillane continued.
Mr Wells had said the tigger was pulled in “anguish, in the pursuit of survival, in self defence.”
“This was a contact entry wound, the gun was pressed up against the man’s head, that is an important feature of this case,” he said.
Mr Wells was suggesting when he “set about” the body of Mr Wells he was acting in “some sort of panic”, but Mr Gillane asked the jury to consider the “meticulousness” of the wrapping of the torso.
There were 10 separate acts of dismemberment and Mr Wells “would have you believe that this was done in a blind panic,” he said.
The cleanup, he said, was “almost professional.”
“Every step he takes in this case is a step he takes in an attempt to get away with it,” Mr Gillane added.
He said the accused would have the jury believe it was a coincidence that Mr O’Brien was dismembered with his own chainsaw, put into his own suitcase and dumped just next to where he worked “because Mr Wells says he took a wrong turn off the motorway.”
“He was in effect executed efficiently with a single bullet to the back of the head and after being killed in that way, his body was desecrated.”
The trial continues.