Tuesday 21 August 2018

Man (26) jailed for 'keeping lookout' while dad-of-eight was beaten and shot to death

Ross Allen, a father of two, from Clara, Co Offaly was found not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter
Ross Allen, a father of two, from Clara, Co Offaly was found not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter

Natasha Reid & Eoin Reynolds

A 26-year-old man has been jailed for eight years for the manslaughter of a father of eight by keeping lookout while he was beaten and shot to death.

Ross Allen, a father of two, from Clara, Co Offaly was found not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter last month for his part in the killing of Christy Daly on December 29, 2013. The 47-year-old was killed beside the caravan where he lived at Bog Lane in Clara.

Allen, who was born suffering the ill-effects of hard drugs, had spent five weeks on trial at the Central Criminal Court.

Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy noted Wednesday morning that he had been prosecuted for murder on the premise that he was engaged in a common purpose to kill. However, the jury was not satisfied that he was, and he said that the case was to be regarded as an assault manslaughter.

The judge acknowledged that Mr Daly had a ‘rather checkered’ life and had finished serving a prison sentence shortly before his death.

He said that no victim impact statement had been supplied, which he suggested might reflect his isolation in society.

The deceased began living in a caravan on Bog Lane. Unbeknownst to him, the accused hid E30,000 worth of cannabis in the area for people involved in seriously gangland activity. The trial heard that this was one of the odd jobs he did to pay for his cannabis habit.

He noted that the drugs had gone missing and the blame was put on the deceased. The accused said he was afraid of being blamed and that his life would be in jeopardy.

Allen co-operated on the night in what he knew would be violence. He collected the car used, had a meeting before the attack and recovered a sawn-off shotgun. He was also aware that a person in the back of the car was carrying a semi-automatic pistol. The judge described this as the fatal firearm.

He told gardai that he thought the guns were for protection and not to kill Mr Daly and he acted as a lookout while other people attacked the deceased, who was shot eight times. He burnt the car the next day.

“Undoubtedly, he was murdered by people other than the accused,” said the judge.

He made admissions when arrested, but did not identify the murderers. He said he had drug debts to them and was in fear.

The judge said that Allen undoubtedly had an extremely troubled life. He noted that he had been born, suffering from the ill-effects of hard drugs; he was the son of drug addicts.

He spent his first seven years in different foster homes and was still hungry when he finally got a stable foster home. He became homeless at 17.

He noted that, while on remand in prison, he had done a number of courses and charitable work.

“I think there’s hope for the future,” he said, noting that a reference from his partner had described their young child as a stabilising factor. He also acknowledged his good work record.

The judge described his offence as very grave because of the use of firearms, and that violence was to be inflicted by people engaged in serious criminal activity. He said his degree of culpability was high.

He imposed a 10-year sentence, but suspended the final two years on condition he keep the peace, be of good behaviour and co-operate with the probation services for four years following his release. He said that this was his way of holding a light at the end of the tunnel for him.

He backdated the sentence for 15 months, the time he has already served.

No member of Mr Daly’s family was in court for the sentencing. A number of Allen’s supporters were present and left as Allen was led away by prison officers.

Evidence at trial

The trial heard that Ross Allen revealed his part in the killing during garda interviews in February 2014 when he waived his right to silence. He told gardai that he was addicted to cannabis and had gotten into debt to a local drug dealer after losing his job.

To pay off his debt he would do odd-jobs like hide drugs and weapons around the countryside or move stolen cars from place to place.

In December he hid a bag of drugs, worth about e30,000, on Bog Lane but when he went to retrieve it, it had disappeared. He panicked, telling gardai he thought he was "f**ked". He said he was afraid of the drug owner and that he thought he might kill him.

When he reported the missing stash it was assumed that Christy Daly was responsible. He was the only person living on the lane.

Outlining Allen's involvement in what happened next, Mr Marrinan said he was told to drive a Volvo car to a location just outside Clara. The Volvo was an "offside car" that was used for criminal activity. It would later be used to take the gang to Mr Daly's caravan.

Having left the car at the planned location Allen went to a house in Esker Hills where two Dublin gang members and the owner of the cannabis discussed what to do.

Mr Allen was given money and told to go to Tesco in Tullamore to buy tracksuits and tights.

When he returned the men put on gloves, the newly purchased tracksuits and put the tights on top of their heads, ready to pull down over their faces. One of them had a semi-automatic machine gun, the weapon that would later be used to shoot Mr Daly. They left their mobile phones behind and drove to the accused's apartment where he picked up a hammer and a torch.

When asked by gardai if the hammer was to be used on Christy Daly he said it would be, if necessary. They then traveled to another site where Mr Allen retrieved a shotgun and cartridges that he had hidden behind a farm gate.

He handed the gun to one of the Dublin men sitting in the back of the Volvo car and saw him load it.

Having kitted themselves out they traveled to the remote lane that leads into the bog at Kilbride in Clara where Mr Daly lived and the drugs had last been seen.

Allen was told to stand at the gate and act as lookout while the two Dublin men and the driver of the car continued on. Mr Allen waited with the tights on top of his head rather than over his face.

When gardai asked him what he would have done if someone arrived he said he wasn't really sure. They hadn't discussed that. After a few minutes he heard two shots from the direction of the caravan and presumed they were fired as a warning to Mr Daly.

What actually happened to Christy Daly was revealed by state pathologist Professor Marie Cassidy. She told the trial that Mr Daly suffered blunt force trauma to the face and head. His attackers knocked out five of his front teeth and broke his nose before using a semi-automatic machine gun to shoot him nine times.

Most of the bullets hit him in the legs, severing arteries and smashing bones. It was these injuries that caused his death, she said.

After the assault the two Dublin men and the driver picked Mr Allen up and sped back towards Clara. Witness Niamh Heffernan, who lived at the meeting house in Esker Hills, told the court the two Dublin men stayed up until 5am doing cocaine in the living room.

The next day Mr Allen was told to burn out the Volvo car and he did so. He told gardai that he thought this was a strange request because at that time he did not know that Mr Daly was dead.

During the interviews he was asked several times what he thought they intended to do when confronting Mr Daly. He said he thought they would give him "a few clouts" or a "beating" but that he had no idea how far the Dublin men were going to take it.

He told gardai he was sick when he found out and that it gave him trouble sleeping.

After he had revealed his role he told gardai that it felt like a weight had been lifted off him. He will return to court on July 18 for a sentencing hearing.

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