TWO men have gone on trial at the non-jury Special Criminal Court, charged in connection with the “meticulously planned killing” of dissident republican Peter Butterly.
The court heard today that accused man Ray Kennedy (36) arrived at the scene shortly after the shooting, as there had been an arrangement for the two men to meet. Mr Kennedy, the trial heard, had been in contact with a phone belonging to the deceased's man's wife as Mr Butterly did not use a phone himself.
Mr Butterly, a 35-year-old father of three, was shot dead on March 6, 2013 outside The Huntsman Inn in Gormanston, Co Meath. He died from gun shots wounds to his neck and upper back.
Laurence Murphy (62) and Ray Kennedy (39) have pleaded not guilty to membership of an unlawful organisation, styling itself the Irish Republican Army, otherwise Oglaigh Na hÉireann, otherwise the IRA, on March 6, 2013.
Mr Kennedy - with an address at Whitestown Drive, Blanchardstown, Dublin 15 - is also charged with carrying out an act intending to pervert the course of justice by destroying a mobile telephone SIM card, which was in his possession on March 6, 2013 in the State.
Opening the prosecution case today, Paul O’Higgins SC told the three-judge court that Mr Butterly was shot in the car park of The Huntsman Inn in Gormanston, Co Meath shortly after 2pm on March 6, 2013.
Counsel said the court will hear that Mr Butterly drove his grey Renault Laguna vehicle into the car park at 1.45pm on the day and remained in it.
Gardaí were conducting a significant degree of surveillance at the time, indicated Mr O’Higgins.
The barrister said this was a “meticulously planned killing” which had a “number of moving parts” and the plan had been in operation for a considerable period of time.
Four men - Kevin Braney (44), of Glenshane Crescent, Tallaght, Dublin 24; Edward McGrath (37), of Land Dale Lawns, Springfield, Tallaght; Sharif Kelly (49), of Pinewood Green Road, Balbriggan and Dean Evans (27), of Grange Park Rise, Raheny, Dublin - have all already received life sentences at the Special Criminal Court following convictions for Mr Butterly's murder.
Two other men, Michael McDermott (60), of Riverdale House, Garrymore, Ballinagh, Co Cavan and Frank Murphy (59), of McDonagh Caravan Park, Triton Road, Bettystown, Co Meath, who played roles in the murder of Mr Butterly have also been jailed.
The court heard today that Frank Murphy is a brother of accused man Laurence Murphy, of McDonough Caravan Park, Triton Road, Bettystown, Co. Meath.
In relation to the evidence against Ray Kennedy, Mr O’Higgins said he drove into the Huntsman Inn shortly after the shooting took place on March 6 and spoke with gardaí.
There will be evidence, the court heard, that Mr Kennedy knew Mr Butterly, who had suggested a meeting take place but Mr Kennedy had chosen the time of the meeting.
The court will hear that the meeting was arranged for 2pm but Mr Kennedy maintains that he was not meeting Mr Butterly until 2.30pm, said Mr O'Higgins.
It is the prosecution’s case that Mr Kennedy became aware when he arrived at the Huntsman Inn that Mr Butterly, who he said was his friend, had been shot, outlined Mr O’Higgins.
Counsel said the court will hear that Mr Kennedy became of interest to gardaí at the scene and was arrested for IRA membership and suspicion of a firearm. Mr O'Higgins said it is the prosecution’s case when Mr Kennedy discovered that his friend was dead, his reaction was to destroy a SIM card which may have contained evidence.
Mr O’Higgins told the three-judge panel that the circumstances in which Mr Butterly came to meet Mr Kennedy involved contact between phones belonging to the accused man and Mr Butterly’s wife, Eithne Butterly.
There was regular contact between phones belonging to Mrs Butterly and Mr Kennedy as it would appear that Mr Butterly did not use a phone himself and instead used his wife’s phone, explained Mr O'Higgins.
The court will hear evidence, the lawyer said, that a mobile phone was found in David Cullen’s apartment in Balbriggan, which was used as a “coordinating phone” for carrying out the killing on March 6.
David Cullen was originally charged with the murder of Peter Butterly, but his plea to a lesser charge was accepted in 2014 and he was jailed for that offence and turned State’s witness.
It is also the prosecution’s case that there was contact between Mr Kennedy and Mrs Butterly’s phone on March 5, 2013 and immediately afterwards there were “two brief contacts” between Mr Kennedy’s phone and the mobile discovered in Cullen's apartment in Balbriggan, continued Mr O’Higgins.
“The prosecution will say that it is plain from that that Mr Kennedy had involvement of some kind in the events leading to the killing,” he suggested.
Referring to Laurence Murphy, the barrister said that a gathering took place involving a variety of people at McDonough Caravan Park in Bettystown on March 4, two days before the killing. After the individuals arrived, a red Seat Toledo car belonging to Mr Murphy drove out of the caravan park and past The Huntsman Inn and the court will hear evidence in relation to this, said Mr O’Higgins, adding that gardaí did not see Mr Murphy in the car at the time.
Counsel said that it is also the prosecution’s case that six people including Mr Murphy attended an insider’s meeting or a “debrief” in relation to the previous day’s events at KFC in Charlestown Shopping Centre on March 7. In summary, Mr O'Higgins said that the evidence suggests that there is a close connection between Mr Murphy and the events which occurred.
“The prosecution evidence will be that this was an event which indicated an act of connection between the two accused men and the violent activities of an organisation flying under the banner of the IRA, which beyond a reasonable doubt in conjunction with other evidence suggests membership of that organisation,” he concluded.
The trial resumes tomorrow in front of Ms Justice Tara Burns, presiding, sitting with Judge Sarah Berkeley and Judge Michael Walsh.