Friday 15 November 2019

Vehicle in hit-and-run 'never recovered'

Paud O'Leary
Paud O'Leary

MAJELLA O'SULLIVAN

THE jury watched about three and a quarter hours of video clips, following the social life of a man in a white shirt on a summer's night.

The clips were taken from CCTV footage, gleaned from 106 exhibits from 830 hours of film, taken at locations all over Killarney town and at business premises on the Cork/Kerry border.

Exhibits officer in the investigation into the death of Paud O'Leary in a hit-and-run accident, Sergeant David Leslie, said it took him about six months, working "on and off" to compile the clips that were shown to a jury at the Circuit Criminal Court in Tralee this week.

Mr O'Leary (42), a married father of four and cycling enthusiast, died from brain swelling and haemorrhage, and injuries to his upper spinal cord, on July 1, 2012. He suffered head and neck injuries and extensive bruising to his body with a lacerated earlobe and fractured collarbone, in keeping with the impact of a motorised vehicle.

Assistant State pathologist, Dr Margot Bolster, said Mr O'Leary's injuries were mostly confined to the right-hand side of his body and were due to a fall from a bicycle into a ditch.

On trial is Shane Fitzgerald (23) from Upper Knockeen, Knockduff, Meelin, Newmarket, Co Cork, who denies dangerous driving causing his death at Scrahanfadda, Gneeveguilla, Co Kerry on that date.

The night before, Mr O'Leary had told his wife, Margaret, he was going for a cycle in the morning.

This was nothing unusual as he was training for the Ring of Kerry Charity Cycle the following weekend. She said he left their home in Leamyglissane, Gneeveguilla at around 5am.

Later that morning, after Mass, she grew concerned when she heard he still hadn't returned home. She tried to contact her husband's mobile phone to see if he was en route to football training with their two boys. She also contacted her parents-in-law before ringing the gardai to enquire if any accidents had been reported.

The telephone call was logged at Millstreet Garda Station at 10.40am.

Meanwhile, the O'Leary family was mounting a search while Margaret took the boys to training. When she returned home at around 1.15pm, she heard the news while standing in the kitchen with her brother-in-law, Aeneas.

Her brother-in-law, Jerry O'Callaghan, had found Paud's body in a ditch at Scrahanfadda, about 2km from their home. She immediately went to the scene.

She told the trial: "I knew he was dead. I didn't go down to him. I just could not believe it. It was horrendous."

Mrs O'Leary said her children saw their father later that day in the coffin when he was being taken from the scene.

Shane Fitzgerald left the country within 24 hours of the collision, going first to the UK by ferry, where he applied for a visa for Australia, and flew there within weeks.

In opening statements, prosecuting counsel Tom Rice said it was alleged Mr O'Leary was struck by Mr Fitzgerald's dark grey Toyota Landcruiser, registration number 07 D 24280, which did not stop and failed to remain at the scene.

He said it was not "without evidential significance" the vehicle had never been recovered.

The prosecution alleges Mr Fitzgerald remained socialising until 4.30am and then returned to the car park of Killarney train station where he retrieved his vehicle and began to drive home.

Following a request from An Garda Siochana, Australian Federal Agent David Blockley spoke to Shane Fitzgerald on October 23, 2013, who was staying at a hostel near Fremantle in Western Australia.

In a statement, Mr Fitzgerald said he was out in Killarney between 2am and 4am on the night before he left Ireland, and would have gone to bed after that.

He said he travelled home to Meelin, via Ballydesmond and Scartaglin, and he couldn't recall if anyone was with him in the Landcruiser.

Shane Fitzgerald said he left Ireland for the UK by ferry in his Volkswagen Passat.

He said he travelled to Leeds to a car auction, where he arranged to get his Toyota Landcruiser shipped to the UK, where he sold it to a man.

He said he wasn't in a collision before he left Ireland and his Toyota Landcruiser was "immaculate".

The trial continues.

Sunday Independent

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