Monday 11 December 2017

Limerick man found guilty of attempted murder

Jessica Magee

A LIMERICK man has been found guilty of attempted murder by unanimous verdict, after a trial of two and a half weeks at the Central Criminal Court.

Shane Mason (30) of Seán Heuston Place in Limerick, had denied shooting teenager Daniel Philips in the head and chest as he drove through John's Square in the city on the evening of 24th May, 2010.

It took the jury almost three hours to find Mason unanimously guilty of all four charges of attempted murder, causing serious harm and possessing a firearm and ammunition with intent to endanger life.

Mason has been remanded in custody and will face sentencing on July 30th, when a victim impact statement will be presented in court.

CCTV footage showed Shane Mason cycling past The Square Bar at 9.24pm on the night of the shooting and cycling back in the other direcction at 9.28pm, placing him at the scene of the crime when it was committed.

He had been wearing a blue t-shirt and dark tracksuit bottoms, fitting a description of the gunman given by five eye-witnesses.

Shane Mason's blue t-shirt and navy bottoms were found damp in his girlfriend's washing machine in nearby Brennan's Row later that night.

Two eye-witnesses saw the gunman putting the gun down the front of his trousers after he had fired about six shots towards the car driven by Daniel Philips.

Gunshot residue was found on both Mason's hands and on the waistband of his navy Primark boxer shorts when he was arrested around an hour after the shooting, wearing a bullet-proof vest.

During their deliberations, the jury asked for statements made by three key witnesses to be read out to them again.

Butcher George Russell, former heroin addict Emer O'Connell and Martin McNamara, all local residents, had given the jury different and much briefer accounts than what they told gardaí in the days following the shooting.

But following an application by the prosecution, their original statements made to gardaí were read out in court.

George Russell, a neighbour of the Masons for over thirty years, had been in his house on the night in question when he heard bangs and shortly afterwards saw a man wearing a blue t-shirt and navy bottoms walking by.

A few minutes later, he saw "one of the Masons cycling very fast" towards the Square Bar in a blue t-shirt.

However Mr Russell told the court that he had doubts about his initial statement to gardaí as he had not read it himself before signing it, and that all he had seen of the person walking was "a side profile..a flash of blue from an upper garment."

Emer O'Connell (29), who got out of a taxi on the square just before the shooting, told gardaí she saw Shane Mason running towards Mason's Lane.

"I know him very well, since I was 14 years old," she said, although in court Ms O'Connell said she could not longer be 100 per cent sure it had been him as she had been taking "6 or 7 bags of heroin a day" at the time.

Martin McNamara (22), who had been living on John's Square for a few weeks, told gardaí he saw the gunman get off a bike, take out a black handgun and start shooting at a black Volkswagon Passat which was "screeching" to a halt and then reversing.

He described sparks from the bullets hitting the car, and seeing the gunman put the weapon down his pants before picking up the bike.

In court, Mr McNamara told the jury that he heard gunshots, kept his head down and kept walking, but later admitted that he had left out bits of his evidence because he was "nervous".

Prosecution counsel Ms Úna Ní Raifertaigh suggested to the jury that the witnesses' original statements to gardai were reliable, as they had been given "immediately after the event...when memories are fresh".

Daniel Philips, now aged 20, also gave evidence in court, when the jury heard that he has no memory of being shot at while driving his car through John's Square.

His friend Gary Kelly, who was in the passenger seat, saw Daniel slump over the wheel and managed to bend down and work the pedals with his hands, steering the car by looking at the buildings around him.

The court heard that Daniel spent a month in a coma after bullet fragments were removed from his skull and chest, but has since made a remarkable recovery and is studying for his Leaving Certificate.

Mr Justice Garret Sheehan thanked the jury of seven men and five women for their service, and told them they may be exempted from further jury duty for a period of five years.

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