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Accused shouted out 'I only set the car on fire' after arrest, court told

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Alan O’Neill was shot dead

Alan O’Neill was shot dead

Alan O’Neill was shot dead

A man accused of the murder of Dublin man Alan O'Neill shouted "I only set the car on fire" as he was arrested near a burning car, a court heard.

Detective Garda Conor Harrison yesterday told prosecuting counsel Shane Costelloe SC at the Central Criminal Court that he arrested the accused man at Belfry Square shortly after the shooting.

He was giving evidence at the trial of 22-year-old Warren Nolan, of Rowlagh Park in Clondalkin, who has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Alan O'Neill (35) at Kiltalown Road, Tallaght, on May 27, 2015.

Mr Nolan also pleaded not guilty to damaging a car by fire at Belfry Square in Tallaght on the same date.

The court heard that on the night in question, the armed detective was on unmarked patrol and his colleague was talking to a driver they considered suspicious.

A call came over the radio that someone had been shot in nearby Kiltalown Road and at about the same moment Det Gda Harrison heard a car being driven "very hard. There was a loud revving noise".

At the top of steps leading to Belfry Manor the detective saw a male who drew his attention as he pulled up his hood and moved "with purpose away from me".

Det Gda Harrison decided to take a closer look and as he walked to the top of the steps a second youth ran across his path, "like he had been fired out of a cannon, at full tilt".

By this time the garda was also aware of a car in flames nearby and he formed the opinion that this youth had come from the burnt-out car which had come from the shooting in Kiltalown Road.

The witness said he shouted "armed garda" as loud as he could and put his hands on the youth to stop him.

Gloved

He brought him to the ground, he said, and as they went down he saw a lighter come out of the youth's gloved hand and the youth said: "I only set the car on fire, I only set the car on fire."

The witness identified the youth as the accused, Mr Nolan.

Det Gda Harrison cautioned him and took Mr Nolan to the garda car and handcuffed him to the open door.

He said he wouldn't normally handcuff a suspect to anything but in the circumstances he made an "executive decision".

He then arrested him under Section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act on suspicion of unlawful possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life.

Mr Nolan was wearing black gloves, had two phones on him and was wearing a blue hooded jacket and white T-shirt.

Under cross examination the witness told defence counsel Michael Bowman SC that he had "no doubt in my mind" that the accused repeated: "I only set the car on fire."

Earlier, Det Gda Harrison was asked about media coverage of the murder probe and said he had "contempt for that kind of carry on" as it frustrated investigations.

He added that he had "no truck with the media, good, bad or indifferent".

Mr Bowman pointed out to the witness that the Evening Herald had carried a headline the morning after Mr O'Neill was shot dead outside his home that read: "Teens quizzed. Pair arrested as gardai hunt for hitman."

The trial continues.


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