Monday 14 October 2019

Man on trial accused of murdering Noel 'Duck Egg' Kirwan pleads guilty to facilitating criminal organisation to carry out offence

Jason Keating, of Rush, Co Dublin, had pleaded not guilty to the murder of Mr Kirwan
Jason Keating, of Rush, Co Dublin, had pleaded not guilty to the murder of Mr Kirwan

Alison O'Riordan

A man who was on trial accused of murdering Noel ‘Duck Egg’ Kirwan in the driveway of his Dublin home has pleaded guilty to facilitating a criminal organisation in carrying out the offence.

Jason Keating (27), of Lower Main Street, Rush, Co Dublin admitted today to participating in or contributing to activity intending to facilitate the commission by a criminal organisation or any of its members of a serious offence, namely the murder of Mr Kirwan (62) at St Ronan’s Drive, Clondalkin, Dublin 22 between November 8 and December 22 2016, both dates inclusive.

Keating had originally pleaded not guilty at the non-jury Special Criminal Court to the murder of Mr Kirwan on October 2 and the trial has been underway since that date.

State Solicitor Michael O’Donovan this morning told the three-judge court that the DPP had directed that Keating be brought before the court and charged with the offence of facilitating the commission by a criminal organisation or any of its members of a serious offence contrary to Section 72 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006.

Victim Noel ‘Duck Egg’ Kirwan pictured with long-time friend Gerry 'The Monk' Hutch
Victim Noel ‘Duck Egg’ Kirwan pictured with long-time friend Gerry 'The Monk' Hutch

Detective Sergeant Damien Gannon, from Lucan Garda Station, gave evidence that he met Keating this morning and handed him a copy of the charge sheet, explaining the charge to him.

When the registrar put the new count to Keating and asked him how he was pleading, he replied: “Guilty”.

This is believed to be the second time a person has been convicted for this offence under the organised crime legislation brought in in 2006.

Paul Greene SC, prosecuting, asked the court that a “nolle prosequi” be entered on the charge of murder at the sentence hearing next month. This means the State will not be proceeding with the prosecution in relation to the count of murder.

Mr Justice Tony Hunt said the “first instance” of this offence was dealt with by the court last Monday. He told counsel for both sides that the court would need to know at the sentence hearing what was offered “in terms of assistance” by Keating and what was the defendant’s state of mind in relation to the offence that actually took place. “If you look at the sentence from Monday you will see what was required to assist us in the exercise,” he added.

Martin Aylmer (31), of Casino Park, Marino, Dublin 3 was sentenced last Monday to three years and nine months for helping a criminal organisation murder Dublin bar manager, Michael Barr (35) at the Sunset House, Summerhill Parade, Dublin 1 on April 25th 2016.

The judge said today that the law of homicide in this country as it is currently structured is “inflexible”, adding that it was long overdue for reform in its substance and in its mandatory sentencing. “This new charge is most useful in cases where people play parts which fall short of actually pulling the trigger. It provides for some flexibility but also for serious penalties. This has advantages for both sides of the case,” he remarked.

Mr Kirwan was sitting in his new car, a Ford Mondeo, when a gunman shot him six times with a Makarov handgun which was later recovered at the scene.

The 62-year-old, a “long-time” friend of Gerry “the Monk” Hutch, suffered eight gunshot wounds in total to his head, right arm, chest and abdomen. The court has heard that the murder of Mr Kirwan arose from a "notorious feud" between two criminal factions but the deceased had no connection with either side.

The deceased’s partner, Bernadette Roe, was in the passenger seat of his car at the time of the attack. They had just returned from a Christmas lunch in a restaurant in Crumlin with Ms Roe’s daughter.

It was the prosecution's case that a 'Gotek7’ tracking device was put under Mr Kirwan's car in the weeks leading up to his killing and this could be linked to Keating.

The getaway vehicle, a white Peugeot van, was later found on fire at the rear of Neilstown Shopping Centre in Clondalkin, just a minute’s drive from St Ronan’s Drive.  

Mr Justice Hunt, presiding, sitting with Judge Sinead Ni Chualachain and Judge Cormac Dunne, remanded Keating in custody until November 22, when he will be sentenced.

Evidence heard in trial

During the trial Bernadette Roe, the partner of Mr Kirwan, gave evidence that she had lived at St Ronan’s Drive in Clondalkin for the past 38 years. She knew Noel “all her life” and she began a relationship with him six years before he died.

She said her niece invited them to a restaurant on Sundrive Road in Crumlin on the afternoon of December 22 and Mr Kirwan drove them there in his new car, a Ford Mondeo. “He was driving a BMW X5 jeep before but it was costing us too much to tax,” she said.

She testified that she heard a bang when they pulled up at their house at 5.05pm that evening but she thought someone had broken a window. Noel told her he had been shot and his head then hit hers, she said.

Ms Roe testified that she ran from the car and saw the gunman jump into the side of a white van as it drove away. “I screamed for help, I couldn’t go back to him (Noel),” she said. Mr Kirwan was pronounced dead at 6.38pm that evening by a doctor who arrived at the scene.

The court heard Mr Kirwan had previously been photographed at a funeral with his friend Gerry Hutch. “Everyone from the community went to the funeral, if he (Noel) had taken two steps forward he would not have been photographed,” said Ms Roe.

Carolyn Murray, Ms Roe's adult daughter, gave evidence that she lived around the corner from her mother in St Ronan’s park.

The witness said Mr Kirwan dropped her and her daughter home after lunch on December 22. Ms Murray said she was only in the door when she got a phone call from her mother who was hysterical on the line. “I flew into the car and around to my mother’s road,” she said.

The witness testified that as she made her way to her mother's house she saw a small white van at the corner of the estate and it looked like it was contemplating where to go. “It was at a stand-still, it wasn’t moving,” she added. Ms Murray said it was not until someone told her that a white van had driven away from the scene did she “twig” what she had just seen.

Ms Murray said she saw Noel “slumped” over the gear stick of his car outside her mother’s house. She testified that she got into the passenger side of his car and held his hand. “I talked to him to make sure he was ok and I stayed with him until the ambulance arrived,” she added.

The court saw CCTV footage of the white Peugeot van enter St Ronan’s Drive at 4.28pm on December 22. The white van did a U-turn and parked facing the exit of the estate before two people got out of the vehicle.

The court saw further CCTV footage from Neilstown Shopping Centre in Clondalkin where two people got out of the white Peugeot van at 5.09pm on December 22. A flash of light and smoking flames could be seen coming from the van.

Detective Sergeant Damien Gannon gave evidence that he found a 'Gotek7' electronic tracking device underneath Mr Kirwan’s Ford Mondeo on December 23. It was covered in black rubber, he said, and was attached to the undercarriage of the vehicle with two very strong magnets. Det Sgt Gannon said he recovered the internals of this device as he thought it may contain electronic data before he passed it on to be examined.

James Kennedy, attached to the telecommunications section of An Garda Siochana, gave evidence that the tracking device used a GPS positioning system to work out one's location and it uploaded information to a web server.

Deputy State Pathologist, Dr Linda Mulligan, told the trial that Mr Kirwan died from multiple gunshots wounds. The witness said the deceased was shot six times, once in the right of the face below his eye, once in the right shoulder and anterior chest, once in the anterior abdomen, two shots in the right arm and once in the right side of his body.

The fatal gunshot wound, which entered his chest via his shoulder, caused extensive damage to the main blood vessel in his body. The amount of blood loss would have led to death, she said.

John Dunne, owner of a car dealership in Clondalkin, gave evidence that he met Mr Kirwan on December 10 and a deal was made to trade in his BMW X5 jeep and purchase the Ford Mondeo. Mr Kirwan returned to collect the Ford Mondeo at his premises on December 13 and the BMW was sent off to Merlin Car Auctions in Naas.

Kenneth Fitzsimons, an auction manager for Merlin Car Auctions, testified that three car auctions take place on a weekly basis at his business where the public can view the vehicles. He confirmed that a CCTV system was in place on the premises and said that Mr Kirwan’s BMW arrived at Merlin Car Auctions on December 16.

CCTV footage of a green Renault Megane arriving at Merlin Car Auctions on December 20 was shown to the court. Describing the footage, Garda Hugh O’Carroll said two people got out of this car and walked towards the reception desk of the premises. He identified the male as Jason Keating and the female as his girlfriend.

Two individuals could be seen walking around the “stock yard” where many cars were displayed. Gda O’Carroll testified that the pair went off camera for three minutes before they walked back through the yard and left in the Renault Megane.

Niall Ducken, a mechanic, gave evidence that he bought a green Renault Megane "to sell on" in August 2016. He said he advertised the car online before he sold it to Jason Keating.

Professor David Last, a consultant engineer, testified that a tracking device recorded its position "much more frequently" on the day Mr Kirwan was shot dead outside his home. He said the device was set up at the 'GoTEK' premises in Calais, France and arrived at "The Spy Shop" in Leeds on October 18. It was then taken from Leeds to Holyhead in Wales before it arrived at Dublin Port on October 20.

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