Tuesday 13 November 2018

Murder accused Paul Wells 'told son not to come home night before victim went missing' - court hears

Kenneth O’Brien. Photo: Colin Keegan
Kenneth O’Brien. Photo: Colin Keegan

Andrew Phelan

ONE of murder accused Paul Wells’ sons has said his father told him not to come home the night before Kenneth O’Brien went missing and his torso was found in a suitcase in the Grand Canal.

Mr Wells was out power-washing the ground in his back yard the following morning and later gave Gary Wells a bag with a chainsaw in it to pass on to another brother, the Central Criminal Court heard.

After Mr O’Brien’s body was found and identified, the "finger of suspicion" was pointing at the accused “even in his own family,” the jury heard.

The accused, of Barnamore Park, Finglas, has pleaded not guilty to murdering Kenneth O’Brien at that address between January 15 and 16, 2016.

Mr Wells (50) admitted to gardai 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 (33) had wanted to have his own partner Eimear Dunne murdered and Mr Wells refused to kill her.

He said after he shot Mr O’Brien, he “panicked” and dismembered the remains, which were later found in a suitcase and shopping bags in the canal in Co Kildare.

Ms Dunne began giving evidence last Friday. Concluding her cross-examination today, she agreed with Michael O’Higgins SC, defending, that the accused would call around to her home from time to time “for a chat and a cup of tea” while Mr O’Brien was still working in Australia.

“He used to say, ‘Eimear, you know Ken’s not coming home’” she said.

In one conversation, she asked Mr Wells if Mr O’Brien had said anything about whether he was staying home, and Mr Wells replied: “Kenneth is Kenneth, I just wish he would be honest or straight with you.”

Asked if there were arguments between Ms Dunne and Mr O’Brien about the issue, she said “not really” and if he did not want to come home she would accept it and was not going to force his hand.

Mr O’Higgins read out a November 2014 text exchange between Ms Dunne and Mr O’Brien in which she accused him of “lying about coming home” and “always making me look like a dope.”

Ms Dunne said she did not want to look like a dope because when Mr Wells was in her house, he was saying “you know Ken isn’t coming home, Eimear.”

Mr O’Higgins said when she met the accused outside McDonald’s in Liffey Valley the Sunday after Mr O’Brien went missing, she told him she would check her house CCTV and Mr Wells told her it was not working.

Mr O’Higgins said the CCTV seemed to have been working up until Thursday, January 14, when it was switched on at 10.50 and off at 10.51. It appeared that Mr Wells must have learned that information from Mr O’Brien, Mr O’Higgins said.

Ms Dunne said Mr O’Brien had not said anything about the CCTV being off.

In re-examination, Ms Dunne told prosecutor Sean Gillane SC she would be in text contact with Mr O’Brien a few times a day when he was in Australia.

In December 2015, she was under the impression he was definitely staying when he returned.

Mr Gillane asked her was their son involved in this.

“Yes, he was after telling Charlie that he was home for good,” she said.

Mr O’Brien had told their son: “Daddy is coming home for Christmas.”

She agreed that Mr O’Brien as “devoted” to his son.

Mr O’Brien’s mother, Susan O’Brien said she knew the accused was a friend of Mr O’Brien but did not know how he knew him.

When he returned from working in Australia in December 2015, she and her husband Gerry were among family members at the airport to meet him.

Mr O’Brien was “in good form” and his son was “delighted to see his Daddy.”

On January 16, 2016 after Mr O’Brien did not return home (from a job he said he was going to in Limerick), she spoke to Ms Dunne who was “obviously distraught.”

Ms O’Brien said when the suitcase with the torso in it was found in the canal in Ardclough, near where her son had a lockup, she thought:

“I thought it doesn’t mean anything."

However, gardai called and she provided a DNA sample and the remains were identified.

In cross-examination, she did not recall Mr O’Brien being distracted and looking at his phone a lot when he returned from Australia.

Gary Wells, one of the accused’s sons said he was living at Barnamore Park, Finglas with his parents in 2016. On January 15, his father brought him to work because his own car was broken.

“That morning when I was leaving, he told me not to come home that night,” he said.

When they arrived at work, he said his father told him again not to come home and “said he had a friend coming over.”

While he was at work, he said, his father “rang me to make sure I wasn’t coming home.”

He could not remember what was said, “just not to come home, to go straight to my partner’s”

His father did not say why. He stayed with his partner Melissa that night and the following night.

His mother and another brother who was living at home were both visiting a sister in Cork.

The next morning, he walked home from his partner’s house and his father was out in the back yard.

“He was standing just outside the decking, power hosing the ground,” he said.

There were two square bottles of bleach sitting on the decking.

His father came in and told him €1,200 he was lending him to buy a car was in a biscuit tin in the press. His father left in the Audi A3.

The next morning, his father called to say he was outside Melissa’s house. The accused told him he needed to talk to him, and asked if there was room in Melissa’s shed for “put some stuff into.” He said there was not.

They went back to their house and the accused gave him a bag and asked him to bring it to his brother Paul Wells Jnr’s house.

The accused got the black bag from the shed and it had cable tie around the top.

He agreed with Mr Gillane that he formed the view from the shape that there was a chainsaw in it.

Before his father brought it out to his car, he noticed a layer of carpet missing in the shed and the concrete floor was visible. Gary Wells said he drove the bag to his brother Paul Wells Jnr’s house in Beatty Park, Celbridge and put the bag into the boot of his brother’s car.

His father gave him bags of rubbish he wanted to get rid of from the shed and he agreed to take them. They were shopping bags and he saw inside one which had a piece of cardboard with a red stain on it.

Gary Wells said he put the bags in the bin at his work. His father asked if he could get plastic for the shed walls because of a leak and he did so, from work.

Gardai had shown him plastic which was similar to the type he had brought home.

That week, his father met him in Blanchardstown and asked him to drop some money to Paul Wells Jnr. They went home and his father handed him an envelope to give his brother, telling him there was €11,000 in it.

Gary Wells said he had met Mr O’Brien a few times.

After it came out that it was Mr O’Brien whose body was found, the accused “said he thought it was terrible what had happened” and that the gardai “would probably come to speak to him as a precaution.”

In cross-examination, Gary Wells agreed that after Mr O’Brien’s body was found, there was “tension” and “even in his own family the finger of suspicion was pointing at him.”

He said his father had been “very edgy.”

He agreed Paul Wells Jnr had “pre-empted matters” by self-reporting to the gardai and “that hastened the inevitable that the gardai were going to come knocking.”

Gary Wells said although it was his normal routine to stay in his partner’s house at weekends, he would usually go home to get changed first.

Mr O’Higgins questioned him about whether his father was telling him not to come home that night or “double checking”. Gary Wells said it was the “tone” of voice his father used. Mr O’Higgins said he was not challenging him on his impression.

Mr O’Higgins said the accused would say he did not tell Gary Wells he had a friend coming over.

The witness said “it was said to me” although he could not put an exact time on it.

In his statement, he had described his father as being out of breath but he accepted that this was frequently the case as his father was “not fit.”

The trial continues before a jury and Mr Justice Paul McDermott.

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