Saturday 14 December 2019

'We can't understand this' - Friends of Kenneth O'Brien in shock as mechanic killed 'over personal grudge'

Members of the Gardai at the scene in the Grand Canal where the body of Kenneth O’Brien was found. Collins Dublin, Gareth Chaney
Members of the Gardai at the scene in the Grand Canal where the body of Kenneth O’Brien was found. Collins Dublin, Gareth Chaney
Garda divers at the scene in the Grand Canal where the body of Kenneth O’Brien was found. Collins Dublin, Gareth Chaney
Kenneth O’Brien

Conor Feehan, Tom Brady and Martin Grant

The family of Kenneth O'Brien cannot understand why he was killed, according to a family friend.

The father-of-one's torso was found in a suitcase in the Grand Canal at the weekend.

Gardai believe he was killed because of a personal grudge, saying that Dubliner had no connection with crime.

But they think he may have fallen foul of someone with a grudge to bear, since he returned home last month after a spell working in Australia.

Mr O'Brien was identified at 3.30pm yesterday after a DNA sample taken from the torso matched a sample provided by a member of his family.

The mechanic and JCB driver was the father of a little boy, and part of a family who are described as very respectable and hard-working.

Today, a person close to the O’Brien family today said that Ken had only been at his grandfather’s house in Ballyfermot on Thursday, the day before he went missing, to help him put a new battery into his car.

“He was always helpful, and quiet in his own way, nobody can understand what happened,” they said.

Ken grew up in Ballyfermot with his brother and sister and moved to Australia to work.

“His aunt reported him missing after getting a call from his partner on Friday night, but when we heard about the body being found in the canal on Saturday we never ever thought it could be Ken,” they explained.

“Then we found out yesterday evening that it was him. We just can't believe it.” They added.

“If they had killed him and left him it would have been bad enough, but to do what they did to him afterwards is just shocking. We are sick at what happened. We can't sleep,” they said.

Today a friend of Ken’s who worked with him in Australia told the the Irish community there are in shock at what happened.

“Ken lived for his family and was a hard worker. We can’t understand how or why his life could have ended this way,” he said.

“He went about his work, kept quiet, and gave nobody cause for concern or reason to criticise him,” he added.

“He worked continuously and missed his family greatly, and wanted to start his own business when he went home. He would always talk about how he missed his little boy,” said the Irishman who worked with Ken.

“When the little lad started to walk Ken was nearly in tears because he wanted to be be there to see him growing,” he added.

“We’ve been following the case out here because it is so unusual, and then this morning to see Ken’s photo in the reports is just such a shock. We can't understand it,” he explained.

“Ken was not in trouble with anyone and this looks like some sort of execution. We just can’t understand it,” he added.

“Although Ken was a big man, he didn’t carry himself as a hard man. He was a mechanic, just doing his work to provide for his family,” he said.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald described the case as "shocking" and "most distressing".

Asked about the progress of the garda investigation she replied:

"That's an operational matter for the Gardai."

"Obviously it's a most distressing case and I won't comment further on it. Obviously it's a shocking case and incredibly sad and distressing for the family."

Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan has described the murder of Kenneth O’Brien as “gruesome”.

Speaking in Dublin today, the garda chief offered the sympathies of the force to the O’Brien family.

“It’s obviously a very gruesome murder,” she said.

Ms O’Sullivan appealed for anybody who may have information, “no matter how small they might think” to come forward.

“We’re very anxious to hear from anybody who might have any information they can offer in helping us to identify the perpetrator of this awful crime,” she said.

Last night, detectives were making inquiries to establish his acquaintances since he came back - and determine if he had been involved in any incident that could be linked to his brutal demise.

One experienced investigator said: "It is rarely that we come across such savagery and we will be looking at people known to us with a history of violence as we sift through possible suspects for this awful crime."

They will also check whether Mr O'Brien believed himself to be under threat in recent weeks.

Their inquiries will focus on the Clondalkin area, where Mr O'Brien was last seen alive.

He vanished last week after telling his family that he was heading down the country to do some work.

Gardaí are anxious to speak with anyone who was in contact with Mr O'Brien in the period leading up to his disappearance.

Superintendent Gerry Wall, who is leading the investigation, said: "If you have spoken to him by email, phone or text, we would like to hear from you.

"The fact he was last seen in Clondalkin, Clondalkin is of particular interest to us. He was last seen on Friday morning. He hasn't been seen since and no contact has been made."

His disappearance was reported to the gardaí in Clondalkin the following evening.

Gardaí have not yet located where he was murdered and his body dismembered, but intensive investigations are continuing in west Dublin and north Kildare.

Officers said last night that securing a positive identification of the victim was a significant development in their investigation, and opened up fresh avenues of inquiry.

Superintendent Wall said: "He's a family man, with a partner. I spoke with his family this evening. They are devastated and grief-stricken."

Mr O'Brien had an address in Lealand Road, Clondalkin, but was originally from Ballyfermot and had lived in Australia before returning to Ireland in December. He is described as being 6'2" tall with a stocky build, and he wore a beard.

Supt Wall added: "At this stage, there is no indication why this crime was perpetrated." Gardaí were speaking to neighbours in the areas as the made door-to-door enquiries.

Neighbours spoke of their shock at what had occurred, but said that Mr O'Brien was not well-known in the area as he had only recently returned from overseas.

Irish Independent

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