Wednesday 14 November 2018

Murder accused Paul Wells withdrew just under €20k from bank in less than two months - forensic scientist tells trial

Tragic: Kenneth O’Brien, who was shot and dismembered
Tragic: Kenneth O’Brien, who was shot and dismembered
Gardai search the Grand Canal near Sallins. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA
Kenneth’s partner Eimear Dunne. Photo: Collins
Grim find: Gardaí at the scene on the canal near Sallins, Co Kildare, where the remains of Kenneth O’Brien were found. Photo: Colin Keegan
Garda underwater unit members search the canal near Sallins in 2016 for the body of Kenneth O’Brien. Picture: Collins

Andrew Phelan

MURDER accused Paul Wells withdrew just under €20,000 from his bank account in the space of less than two months, after it was transferred there by Kenneth O’Brien before he died, a jury heard.

Mr Wells took the money out in nine cash transactions in the weeks before Mr O’Brien went missing and his remains were found in the Grand Canal.

Mr O'Brien had been working in Australia and transferring money into Mr Wells' account, totalling more than €52,000.

A forensic scientist also told the Central Criminal Court she did not find “anything abnormal” in bank accounts held by Mr O’Brien while he was working in Australia before he returned home.

Gardai search the Grand Canal near Sallins. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA
Gardai search the Grand Canal near Sallins. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA

Mr Wells (50), of Barnamore Park, Finglas, has pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr O’Brien (33) at that address between January 15 and 16, 2016.

He 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 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.

Kenneth’s partner Eimear Dunne. Photo: Collins
Kenneth’s partner Eimear Dunne. Photo: Collins

Today, Toni Massey, a forensic accountant at the Garda Economic Crime Bureau gave evidence of five “accounts of relevance” in the investigation.

These were Mr O’Brien’s two Commonwealth Bank of Australia accounts, New Zealand Banking Group account and PTSB account, as well as the accused’s PTSB account.

Grim find: Gardaí at the scene on the canal near Sallins, Co Kildare, where the remains of Kenneth O’Brien were found. Photo: Colin Keegan
Grim find: Gardaí at the scene on the canal near Sallins, Co Kildare, where the remains of Kenneth O’Brien were found. Photo: Colin Keegan

Mr O’Brien’s PTSB account showed him gathering money up to December 2012, before he went to Australia in January 2013, Ms Massey told Ger Small BL, prosecuting. It was kept in credit after that.

On February 2, 2015, €5,000 was transferred directly from his PTSB account into Mr Wells’ PTSB account.

Garda underwater unit members search the canal near Sallins in 2016 for the body of Kenneth O’Brien. Picture: Collins
Garda underwater unit members search the canal near Sallins in 2016 for the body of Kenneth O’Brien. Picture: Collins

The busiest of Mr O’Brien’s accounts in Australia was his New Zealand Banking Group account, which had nearly €187,000 lodged to it over the three years between 2013 and 2015. Of this €164,000 was Mr O’Brien’s expenses and wages; there were also tax rebates and she found nothing abnormal in the account. There were debits of €183,000.

A total of €87,000 was transferred through the CurrencyFair online foreign currency transfer service.

One Commonwealth Bank of Australia account was small and only €12,000 went through it. It was used as a “feeder account” to his other account in the same bank.

The balance in this second Commonwealth Bank of Australia account was €29,300 over three years and the credits were all transfers from the other account.

Mr O’Brien had transferred €94,227 from his various Australian accounts through CurrencyFair.

Of this, €11,620 was to his own PTSB account; €23,982 was to Eimear Dunne; €8,000 was to his father Gerard O’Brien; €2,700 was to his aunt Lorraine Leeson; and €47,925 was to the accused.

The fifth account of interest - the accused’s PTSB account, was virtually inactive between 2010 and 2012, then became much more active in 2014 and 2015.

In 2014, €11,890 was lodged to it, €10,990 of which came from Mr O’Brien.

In 2015, there was €41,935 lodged, all of which came from Mr O’Brien.

Another €5,000 came as a direct transfer from Mr O’Brien’s PTSB account, the balance coming through CurrencyFair.

Cash withdrawals were made either from an ATM up to the €1,500 limit or €5,000 at the branch counter.

The last lodgement from CurrencyFair was on November 20, 2015, leaving a balance of €20,000.

Between then and January 15, 2016, €19,700 was withdrawn in nine cash transactions, leaving €296 in the account.

In total, €52,925 passed from Mr O’Brien to Mr Wells. In cross-examination, Ms Massey agreed with Michael O’Higgins SC, defending, that Mr O’Brien had been making roughly €70,000 per year net in Australia.

However, he was earning far more in 2015 than in previous years.

The trial continues.

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