Friday 20 September 2019

Mum-of-three saw partner shot to death by 'young boy' in dark clothes, court hears

Warren Nolan (22) has pleaded not guilty to murder of Alan O'Neill

Alan O'Neill (35)
Alan O'Neill (35)

Eoin Reynolds

A mum-of-three has told a murder trial how her partner was shot to death at the front door of their home by a "young boy" in dark clothes.

Michelle Usher told prosecuting counsel Shane Costelloe SC that she thought it was a joke until she heard a third shot and her partner Alan O'Neill screamed out in pain.

The witness was giving evidence in the trial of Warren Nolan (22) of Rowlagh Park in Clondalkin who has pleaded not guilty to Mr O'Neill's murder at Kiltalown Road, Tallaght on May 27, 2015.

Mr Nolan also pleaded not guilty to damaging a car by fire at Belfry Square in Tallaght on the same date.

Ms Usher told Mr Costelloe that in May 2015 she was preparing to finish a university degree course while Mr O'Neill (35), a painter and decorator by trade, was due to start a course in personal training.

She had one child with Mr O'Neill and he was a father figure to all three of her children.

That evening Mr O'Neill had been to the gym, came home and then went out again to give Ms Usher's brother a lift home.

Ms Usher was in her living room when she saw Mr O'Neill's car arrive back and park on the driveway, followed by a people carrier that stopped on the road at the entrance to the driveway. Mr O'Neill got out of his car and the lights flashed as he pressed the alarm button.

When Ms Usher saw the second car stop she leaned closer to the window as she thought it "peculiar".

Then a "dark figure" came in to the garden. He looked like a "young fella" and so when she heard two "really loud bangs" she thought it was a joke until, as she opened the door, she heard another bang, saw a blue flash and a black gun in the dark figure's hand followed by Mr O'Neill screaming out in pain.

Ms Usher caught hold of him and brought him in the doorway to the living room while another shot smashed the window of the hall door.

She said: "Everything happened so quickly and I just didn't believe what was going on."

She saw the figure with the gun run out of the garden and get back in the people carrier which then "took off".

By his posture and movements she thought he was a "young boy" or a "teenager" but she didn't see his face.

He was dressed in dark clothing and she couldn't remember if he had something covering his face. Alan was pale and seemed to be having a fit.

He told her to call an ambulance and make sure the children stayed in bed. Her neighbour Stephen O'Connell arrived and, seeing Ms Usher in "hysterics" he took the phone and followed the paramedic's instructions until an ambulance arrived.

Defence counsel Michael Bowman SC suggested to the witness that her recollection of seeing a young boy or teenager was influenced by media reports that two teenagers had been arrested in the aftermath of the shooting.

She said she was not reading newspapers at the time as she was "traumatised" and was more concerned with looking after her children.

Earlier the jury heard Mr Costelloe's opening speech in which he said that the accused was arrested after a woman smoking a cigarette on her balcony alerted gardai to a suspicious car.

Around the time of the shooting described by Ms Usher, a woman in another part of Tallaght was smoking a cigarette on her balcony when she noticed a car driving in an erratic way.

She thought it suspicious so she called gardai who responded quickly and were talking to the driver of that car when they saw, close by, another car go up in flames.

It is the State's case, counsel said, that the burnt out car is the one used in the shooting and that the accused, having shot Mr O'Neill, burned it out.

He said two people who had been in the now burnt-out car walked towards where gardai were talking to the driver of the suspicious car but when they noticed gardai they ran. One of them got away but the other, Mr Nolan, was arrested.

The jury will hear evidence that gardai found gloves on Mr Nolan's person which, when analysed by a forensic scientist, were shown to have gunshot residue on them.

The trial continues in front of Justice Paul McDermott and a jury of six women and six men.

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