Murder accused searched for ferry timetables hours before he allegedly killed Kenneth O’Brien, court hears
A computer seized from murder accused Paul Wells’ home was used to search for ferry timetables hours before he says he killed Kenneth O’Brien.
A Central Criminal Court jury heard a user profile called “Paul” visited the Irish Ferries website shortly before he maintains he shot Mr O’Brien in a scuffle in his back yard.
A garda cyber crime expert was giving evidence at Mr Wells’ trial today.
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 has admitted 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 partner Eimear Dunne murdered and Mr Wells refused to kill her.
He said he “panicked” and chopped up the body in his yard with a chainsaw. He put Mr O’Brien’s torso in a suitcase and his head and limbs in shopping bags, which he threw into the Grand Canal in Co Kildare.
Today, Det Gda Cliff Cullen of the Cyber Crime Bureau said an Acer laptop was seized from the accused’s home after he was arrested in February 2016.
A forensic image was examined using software tools and showed the operating system’s registered user was “Paul.”
It was last shut down on February 7, 2016 and the last recorded log-in was on February 5, at 11.20pm.
It was ascertained that search terms had been used on the laptop in relation to “Irish Ferries Times from Dublin” and “Irish Ferries Timetables.”
The searches were undertaken at 3.49pm and 4.01pm on January 15.
The user profile “Paul” visited the Irish Ferries website at 3.59pm and between then and 4.01pm, “Paul” accessed pages on the site including “UK to France from Ireland” and “Rosslare to Cherbourg".
The web pages would have included ferry schedules for those routes.
Michael O’Higgins SC, defending, said he was reserving cross examination of the witness until tomorrow.
Lorraine O’Brien, the deceased’s aunt who gave evidence previously, was then recalled for additional cross examination.
She said in her statement to gardai that Mr O’Brien had had a lot of time for his foreman in Australia.
She indicated Mr O’Brien had lived in one place and moved on without telling anyone. He had had a “strong personality,” she told the jury.
Mr O’Higgins said she had told gardai when Mr O’Brien came home in December 2014, he was not in a good place, was “moping around” and very distracted.
Mr O’Higgins said she had said Mr O’Brien did not want to come home.
She told the jury she had asked him if he wanted to come home or stay in Australia and he “never said either way” and she still did not know what was upsetting him at the time.
She agreed Mr O’Brien had told her the company owner in Australia was “involved in drugs.”
Mr O’Brien had told her he had gone through a “serious amount of money” since he got off the plane, saying he had bought presents and paid bills.
Lee O’Brien, the deceased’s brother, then gave evidence.
Mr O’Higgins put it to him that his mother had said she understood an Anna from Rwanda who Mr O’Brien had been seeing, was originally from London.
When asked where she garnered that information, she had said it was “from you,” Mr O’Higgins said. The witness agreed he had had a conversation with his brother about this.
Det Gda Declan O’Brien, who gave evidence previously, was called again for further cross examination about the CCTV system at Mr O’Brien’s home at Leland Road, Clondalkin.
He said there were four cameras; two at the front and two at the back. Footage was viewed and it did not record between 8.36pm on December 28, 2015 and just after midnight on January 7.
It then recorded continuously in a 24-hour cycle and Det Gda O’Brien agreed with Mr O’Higgins that the things he noted happening outside the house after this were a “picture of a typical day.”
This continued until Wednesday, January 13, when the camera went off at 4.52am, Mr O’Higgins said. On Thursday, January 14, it recorded for a minute and 13 seconds from 11.50am to 11.51am.
“The footage stops,” Det Dga O’Brien said, agreeing that this was the last entry of recorded CCTV from Mr O’Brien’s home.
In re-examination, prosecutor Sean Gillane SC said Det Gda O’Brien had used the phrase “stops” as opposed to “turned off.”
“The screen goes blank,” he replied. “There is no visible footage.”
Mr Gillane said this was the last evidence he was putting forward, but as the defence had deferred a decision on cross-examination of Det Gda Cliff Cullen, the prosecution would not be formally closing its case until tomorrow.