Saturday 17 November 2018

Paul Wells facing life in jail after being found guilty of murder of Kenneth O'Brien

Kenneth O'Brien
Kenneth O'Brien

Andrew Phelan

PAUL Wells has been found guilty of murdering father-of-one Kenneth O’Brien, who he shot in the head and dismembered, before dumping his remains in the Grand Canal.

Wells looked straight ahead and did not react as the Central Criminal Court jury delivered its unanimous verdict this afternoon.

He is facing a mandatory life imprisonment for the 2016 killing of his friend and a sentence hearing will be held later this afternoon.

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

He 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.

After the shooting, Wells chopped the body up with a chainsaw, put the torso in a suitcase and his head and limbs in shopping bags, which he dumped in the Grand Canal in Co Kildare.

The jury had been deliberating for five hours and nine minutes hours they returned with a verdict this afternoon.

Wells, sitting in the dock and dressed in a black suit with a white shirt and purple tie, watched the jurors as they filed in shortly after 1pm.

The court registrar read from the issue paper and the foreman confirmed that this was the verdict of all 11 jurors.

Wells remained motionless in the dock, his eyes flicking from the jury back to Mr Justice Paul McDermott. The judge thanked the jurors, said it had been a “difficult trial” and excused them from further service for 10 years.

Members of Mr O’Brien’s family cried softly as the verdict was delivered.

Prosecutor Sean Gillane SC said he was ready to proceed to sentencing and victim impact evidence was available. Michael O’Higgins SC, defending, consented to this.

Mr Justice McDermott said sentencing would take place later today.

Wells did not speak to anyone as he was led back into custody by a prison guard. Mr O’Brien’s parents, Susan and Gerry O’Brien hugged in court afterwards.

During the three-week trial, the jury heard that on January 16, 2016, a couple out walking by the Grand Canal at Ardclough, Co Kildare found a suitcase floating in the water.

When they opened it they thought it looked like human remains and called gardai, who found a human torso inside.

A post mortem found the head and limbs had been cut “neatly” off with a chainsaw and gardai launched a murder investigation.

Kenneth O’Brien had been reported missing after he failed to return from work the previous day to his home at Lealand Road, Clondalkin.

He had told his partner Eimear Dunne that he was going to a construction job in Limerick, but this proved not to be true.

In the early hours of Saturday, she was sent two suspicious text messages that supposedly came from Mr O’Brien. First, the sender said he had lost his phone and was staying in a hotel.

In the second, he said he had “met someone else” and was “heading for the ferry” with her.

The spelling and punctuation were off and Ms Dunne realised it was not from Mr O’Brien.

Paul Wells, a friend of Mr O’Brien’s was one of the people she contacted as she tried to find out where he was.

Wells told her Mr O’Brien had met another woman in Australia, where he had been working, and did not want to come home.

Although Mr O’Brien had other affairs before, Ms Dunne thought something was “not right” as he had told her and their son he was coming home from Australia for good.

The torso was identified as Mr O’Brien’s from a DNA sample taken from his mother.

Then, on January 24, his head and limbs were found in shopping bags in the Grand Canal at Sallins.

A second post mortem found he had died from a single gunshot wound, and the muzzle of the weapon had been pressed against the back of his head when it was fired.

Gardai found Mr O’Brien had been transferring large sums of money home from Australia - more than €52,000 into Paul Wells’ bank account.

CCTV showed Wells driving out toward Ardclough in the early hours of Saturday, January 16. The number that sent the first fake text message to Ms Dunne had connected to a mast near his home, the second at East Wall.

The jury heard while it became inevitable that the gardai were going to “come knocking” for Wells, his own son “pre-empted matters” and went to them first.

Paul Wells Jnr told gardai his father had admitted to him that he shot Mr O’Brien and took a chainsaw to him.

Part of the chainsaw had already been found in the Royal Canal near Maynooth on January 22. On February 6, garda divers recovered the chain from water at the Curragh.

That morning, Wells was arrested at his home on suspicion of Mr O’Brien’s murder.

Initially in interview, he denied any involvement in his death, but the weight of the garda evidence against him piled up.

After he was told about Paul Wells Jnr’s statement, he confessed to the killing, but said he had not intended it.

He claimed Mr O’Brien had wanted Ms Dunne killed so he could bring his son Charlie to live with him in Australia and had been under the “illusion” that Wells, with a background as an “IRA man”, had agreed to do it.

There was a plan for Kenneth to give him the gun to kill her on January 15 but Wells had no intention of doing it and did not meet him, he claimed.

Wells told gardai Mr O’Brien then turned up at his house at 5.10pm and showed him a revolver.

The pair had a row, they struggled over the gun, Wells got it first and shot his friend in a “panic,” he claimed.

With an “overwhelming sense of trying to survive,” he decided to chop the body up with a chainsaw to dispose of it. Wells broke down in tears as he described the scene of “pure carnage” in his yard.

He said he gave the chainsaw, in a bag, to his son Gary, to pass on to another son, Paul Wells Jnr. Stressing their innocence of any involvement, he said “them boys knew nothing.”

The defence argued the evidence for a planned killing did not “add up.”

Mr O’Higgins asked the jury to take account of seven “suspicious” coincidences that supported Mr Wells allegation that there was a plot to kill Ms Dunne.

He also said Mr O’Brien was a “deeply flawed character” and pointed to an incident in which a friend described him working on pipe bombs in his shed. This, Mr O’Higgins said, showed he had a “disregard for life.”

However, Mr Gillane said Mr O’Brien had been “executed efficiently” in a “premeditated act” and Wells’ claim that he shot Mr O’Brien in the back of the head did not make sense.

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