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Sunset House pub murderer fails to overturn conviction

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Eamonn Cumberton

Eamonn Cumberton

Eamonn Cumberton

A man given a life sentence for the Kinahan cartel murder of Michael Barr has failed in his appeal against his conviction. 

Eamonn Cumberton (32), of Mountjoy Street in Dublin had denied the murder of Mr Barr (35) in the Sunset House pub in Dublin’s north inner city on April 25th 2016.

Mr Barr was standing at the counter of the bar, socialising, when two men wearing "Freddy Kruger" masks entered the pub and one of them shot him seven times in what the Special Criminal Court described as a "deliberate" and "planned" execution.

In dismissing his appeal today (Tuesday), the three-judge Court of Appeal stated that it was completely satisfied that the appellant’s trial was satisfactory and that the verdict was safe.

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Michael Barr

Michael Barr

Michael Barr

Mr Justice Tony Hunt, presiding at the trial, had said that although the court could not determine which role Cumberton played in the shooting, he was one of three culprits seen dumping items connected with the killing into the getaway car.

The car was later found partially burnt-out on Walsh Road in Drumcondra and gardaí were able to extinguish the flames. In the car officers found three rubber masks, a baseball cap and four firearms. These items were "intimately connected with the killing", Mr Justice Hunt said, describing the masks as "eye-catching, lurid and distinctive”.

Mr Justice Hunt said the court was satisfied that DNA found on the baseball cap and one of the rubber masks was Cumberton's and that the three people seen outside the Audi were "involved intimately" in the events at Sunset House.

The court also relied on the circumstantial evidence of Cumberton’s “highly unusual” trip to Thailand around the time of the killing, when he had gone to the airport with no luggage, but was prevented from boarding the flight because his passport was due to expire within three months.

Finally, the court relied on inferences drawn from Cumberton’s failure to answer certain questions asked of him by gardaí.

He was jailed for life on January 29, 2018.

Cumberton moved to appeal his conviction on 28 grounds of appeal.

However, the three judges did not accept the argument of his barrister, Padraig Dwyer SC, that he would not have attended Store Street Garda Station for an emergency were he trying to escape the police.

The judges today noted that the accused had spent nearly €900 on his last-minute flight, together with the cost of changing the flight and obtaining a new passport at short notice.

“Neither the accused nor anybody else can obtain an expedited passport without the necessity of paying such a visit to their local garda station,” they added.

Mr Dwyer had further submitted that the Special Criminal Court had erred in characterising as “extraordinary” a theory that it was possible for DNA to transfer through the air from object to object.

Mr Dwyer said the court treated as “speculative” and “remote” any possibility that DNA particles were shifted from the use of a fire extinguisher in the car that was found partially burnt-out by gardaí.

Mr Dwyer said the garda who examined the baseball cap and one of the rubber masks had not changed gloves between inspecting the items, and that the defence was never allowed to examine the exhibits after they had been removed from the lab.

However, the court today ruled that the Special Criminal Court’s findings of fact were ‘unasaillable’ and that it had not erred in principle

Mr Dwyer had also submitted that the Special Criminal Court was wrong to draw inferences from Cumberton’s failure to answer certain questions asked of him by gardaí, erred in admitting the DNA evidence and erred in refusing to direct Cumberton’s acquittal at the close of the prosecution case.

Mr Justice John Edwards, who sat with Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy and Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy, also dismissed these and all other grounds.

Online Editors