A man who disposed of the chainsaw used to dismember the body of Kenneth O'Brien has been jailed for 18 months for impeding the prosecution of his father, who carried out the murder and dumped the victim's body parts in the Grand Canal.
Sentencing judge Ms Justice Carmel Stewart said today that the "brutal manner" in which Mr O'Brien's body was dismembered and disposed of "defies belief".
The judge said that it had been previously urged upon the Central Criminal Court to suspend the sentence in full due to the defendant's family background but she did not think this would mark the gravity of the offence.
The judge also asked that prison authorities take into account the threat relayed by Paul Wells Senior to his son Paul Wells Junior. The court has heard that Wells Snr has made threats from prison on the defendant's life.
Paul Wells Jnr (33), was found guilty last November of disposing of a blood-stained chainsaw used to dismember the body of Mr O’Brien, which his trial heard had a piece of "brown meat" embedded in its motor.
His father, Paul Wells Snr (51), of Barnamore Park, Finglas in Dublin 11 was jailed for life in 2018 having been found guilty of murdering Mr 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 his body and dumped it in a suitcase in the Grand Canal.
Wells Jnr, with an address at Beatty Park, Celbrudge, Co Kildare, had denied disposing of the chainsaw motor at a time unknown between January 19 and 20, 2016 in Co Kildare. He had also pleaded not guilty to disposing of a chainsaw blade and chain on January 20, 2016 in the same location.
It was the prosecution's case that the defendant impeded the apprehension or prosecution of his father knowing that Wells Snr had taken a life.
At his sentence hearing last week, Wells Jnr’s barrister asked trial judge Ms Justice Stewart for a fully suspended sentence and said that a term of imprisonment should be the last resort.
Defence barrister Damien Colgan SC told the judge that his client was not involved in the murder of Mr O'Brien, had no previous convictions, was exposed to violence from an early age and greatly assisted gardai with the investigation.
The court also heard that Wells Jnr had a "difficult history" for the previous 15 years with his father and a credible threat had been placed upon his life by his father.
The trial heard that Wells Jnr accepted over €11,000 in cash from his father but disputed it was payment to get rid of the chainsaw. Prior to sentence being handed down this morning, Mr Colgan told the court that his client had "no interest" in the money given to him by his father. Prosecuting counsel Michael Bowman SC later confirmed to the court that "no claim" was being made for the money.
Passing sentence, Ms Justice Stewart said the "brutal" murder of Mr O'Brien was compounded by the disposal of his body and the "savage actions" of Wells Snr.
The judge said Wells Jnr had initially attended Leixlip Garda Station and given a voluntary statement to gardai. Following his arrest, the defendant took part in 15 interviews which greatly assisted in the prosecution of his father, she said.
She pointed out that Gary Wells had delivered the chainsaw that had been used to dismember the body to his brother, Paul Wells Jnr, at the bequest of their father.
Ms Justice Stewart said she noted that the sister of the defendant, Amy Wells, had apologised for her brother's actions and the family in not coming forward sooner, as this had allowed Wells Snr to evade prosecution for two weeks. The judge said this confirmed that there was knowledge within the Wells family of what had occurred for at least two weeks until Wells Jnr came forward to gardai on February 5.
Referring to the victim impact statement read to the court by the deceased's father, Ms Justice Stewart said the O'Brien family's grief was "unimaginable". "The fact their son was brutally murdered is appalling in itself but the brutal manner in which his body was dismembered and disposed of defies belief," she said.
Wells Jnr was aware for a period of time that his father was responsible for the death and the terrible disposal of Mr O'Brien's body but had not come forward for a number of weeks, she said, adding that it was also clear that matters had been discussed with the family.
Having regard to the gravity of the offence, the judge said the maximum sentence was ten years in prison. A serious aggravating factor in the case was the fact that Wells Jnr knew what had happened and had not come forward which resulted in Wells Snr attending the deceased's funeral as one of the mourners, she said.
The judge also pointed out that, after Mr O'Brien had died, over €11,000 was delivered by Gary Wells to his brother Wells Jnr on behalf of their father.
It was suggested the money was intended for Wells Jnr's mother incase anything happened to Wells Snr, she said, adding that the court noted the money was put into a safe in the defendant's bedroom and broken up into smaller amounts for the purpose of his upcoming marriage. "Ultimately, it is quite clear that the jury did not accept Wells Jnr acted without reasonable excuse," she remarked.
Wells Jnr was not directly involved in the death of Mr O'Brien, explained the judge. She said the headline sentence was four and a half years and placed the offence in the middle range of gravity.
A mitigating factor in his sentence was that he had assisted gardai with the investigation and on account of this the judge reduced the headline sentence to three years.
The judge said it had been urged upon the court that the sentence should be suspended in full because of Wells Jnr's family background and his current family situation. "I've given great consideration to that option but do not think it would mark the gravity of the offence," she indicated.
Wells Jnr was sentenced to three years in prison with the last 18 months suspended on condition he keeps the peace for that period of time.
Ms Justice Stewart extended her sympathies to the O'Brien family and asked that prison authorities take into account the threat relayed to Wells Jnr from his father.
After the court had risen, a person from the body of the court shouted at the defendant that the sentence handed down by the judge was "an insult".
Wells Junior told gardai in his interviews that he did not know the STIHL chainsaw had been used to dismember Mr O'Brien's body and insisted he was just "putting the jigsaw together" when he threw the motor into the Royal Canal in Maynooth, Co Kildare.
He maintained throughout his interviews that he did not try to hinder the investigation and was afraid his father, who he described as a "glorified criminal", would shoot him.
The trial heard that Wells Snr was a "very violent" man, who in the past had tried to get the defendant to carry explosives and join the IRA. The killer also made threats from prison on the defendant's life and said if he did not put a bullet in his own son, "the IRA would".
Wells Jnr also confirmed to gardai in his interviews that his father drove him to the canal in Sallins on the night of January 16, 2016. The accused said he heard four splashes after the killer threw several bags into the water.
Furthermore, Wells Jnr told the authorities that his father informed him the body of a west Dublin man had been found on January 19, 2016. Gardai gave evidence in the trial that it was not publicly known where the deceased was from at this stage of the investigation.
The trial also heard that Wells Jnr went on his stag party to Latvia with his father, just days after Wells Snr had dismembered the victim's body.