Monday 18 November 2019

Walkers who pulled suitcase containing dismembered body from canal saw what looked like 'a big slab of meat'

Paul Wells Jnr endured a ‘life of hardship’ under his father
Paul Wells Jnr endured a ‘life of hardship’ under his father

Alison O’Riordan

Two walkers pulled a suitcase from the Grand Canal to find that it contained a dismembered body wrapped in plastic, with one of them describing the parts as looking like "a big slab of meat", a trial has heard.

The Central Criminal Court trial also heard today that Paul Wells Junior told gardaí that he thought his father, who had dismembered the body and dumped it in the canal, was trying to “set him up” so he “panicked” and deposited a chainsaw blade and chain in the Curragh.

“I generally didn’t try to hinder the investigation,” he told gardaí.

The prosecution has alleged that Paul Wells Junior, who endured a "life of hardship" under his father, dumped parts of a chainsaw in different locations, knowing at the time that his father had killed someone.

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Kenneth O'Brien
Kenneth O'Brien

READ MORE: I thought my dad was going to shoot me, says son of man convicted of body-in-the-canal murder

Mr Wells Jnr (33) - with an address at Beatty Park, Celbridge, Co Kildare - is charged with impeding the apprehension or prosecution of his father, Paul Wells Senior (51), nearly four years ago.

Mr Wells Junior has pleaded not guilty to disposing of a chainsaw motor at a time unknown between January 19 and 20, 2016 in Co Kildare and not guilty to disposing of a chainsaw blade and chain on January 20, 2016 in the same location.

Paul Wells Senior was jailed for life last year, having been found guilty of murdering Kenneth O'Brien at his home in Finglas on January 15 or 16, 2016. Wells Snr admitted that, after shooting the 33-year-old father in his back garden, he had dismembered the body and dumped it in a suitcase in the Grand Canal.

The statements of two walkers, who had noticed something floating in the canal at Ardclough in Co KIldare on January 16, were read into the record by prosecution counsel Mr Michael Bowman SC.

Mary Costigan said she was walking along the Grand Canal with her partner Brian O'Dwyer when they noticed a suitcase with red ribbons tied to it, floating about a metre from the water's edge. One corner of the suitcase was "sitting up" in the water and it looked new, not like the "usual trash" in the canal, she said.

Probe: Garda underwater unit members search the Grand Canal in January 2016 as part of the investigation into Kenneth O’Brien’s murder. Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins
Probe: Garda underwater unit members search the Grand Canal in January 2016 as part of the investigation into Kenneth O’Brien’s murder. Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins

READ MORE: Chainsaw disposed of by man 'who knew dad had killed', court hears

Her boyfriend used a branch to pull "the very heavy" suitcase towards him and up onto the bank, said Ms Costigan. The witness said she opened the suitcase and could immediately see a piece of clear plastic with red fluid inside it. The witness thought the plastic was blood so she got her boyfriend to call 999. When she opened the suitcase completely, she could see plastic bags with some flesh inside, she said.

In his statement, Brian O'Dwyer said from looking inside the plastic bags of the suitcase, he got the impression they contained a "big slab of meat".

The jury also heard statements from garda witnesses who, over the following week, found Mr O'Brien's limbs in three shopping bags elsewhere in the Grand Canal. The handles of the bags were tied together and contained small red bricks.

In his testimony, Niall McDermott told Mr Bowman that he was walking his dog at Pikes Bridge along the Royal Canal in Co Kildare on the morning of January 20, when he saw a chainsaw at the edge of the water. Mr McDermott said he was concerned the chainsaw would damage the wildlife in the vicinity and so rang Leixlip Garda Station.

In cross-examination, the witness agreed with defence counsel Damien Colgan SC that the chainsaw looked like it had been placed in the water rather than thrown in, as it was sitting "nice and flat".

READ MORE: Murderer jailed for life has long history of dissident links

Detective Garda Patrick O'Leary testified that he and the Garda Sub-Aqua Unit used a rope to pull the chainsaw from the water. The chainsaw motor had no chain attached, he said.

Detective Garda James Young told Mr Bowman that Mr Wells Junior had given a voluntary statement to gardaí on February 5 about depositing parts of a chainsaw in the Curragh in Co Kildare.

Gardai discovered the dismembered remains of Kenneth O’Brien in a search of the Grand Canal
Gardai discovered the dismembered remains of Kenneth O’Brien in a search of the Grand Canal

The next day, Det Gda Young said he followed directions given by the accused man to a water-logged pond area in the Curragh, where he saw a white chainsaw blade. It was about two feet away from the water's edge and had the letters STIHL written on it, he indicated.

READ MORE: Kenneth O'Brien murder trial: Killer Paul Wells' astonishing tale of secrets, lies, betrayal and conspiracy

Det Gda Young agreed with Mr Colgan that the accused man said he had taken the blade off the chainsaw and placed it in water at the Curragh, where it could be seen.

Mr Colgan read sections of his client’s garda statement to the witness, where the accused said: “I generally didn’t try to hinder the investigation. I thought my dad was trying to set me up so I panicked.”

Mr Colgan put it to the witness that Mr Wells Junior had also placed a chain belonging to the chainsaw in a bush so it could be seen. “I’m not aware of that,” he replied.

The trial continues before Ms Justice Carmel Stewart and a jury of six men and six women.

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