Lee Canavan given life sentence over role in murder of David 'Daithí' Douglas

Lee Canavan given life sentence over role in murder of David 'Daithí' Douglas

Paul Neilan

The Special Criminal Court has jailed Dublin man Lee Canavan for life for his role in the murder of David 'Daithí' Douglas, who was "executed" at a city centre shoe shop five years ago.

In passing judgement last month, the three-judge court ruled that Canavan (32) was part of a joint enterprise or shared intention to murder Mr Douglas in what was described as a "meticulously planned execution".

However, the non-jury court did not agree with the State's contention that Canavan was "the person who literally pulled the trigger", owing to a lack of forensic or identification evidence.

Mr Douglas (55) was shot six times as he took a meal break at the counter in his partner’s shop, Shoestown in Dublin's Liberties. The semi-automatic pistol used in the murder had its serial number removed and was "brazenly" left at the scene next to the deceased's head, the court heard.

Canavan, with an address at Edenbrook, Rathfarnham, Dublin 14, had pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr Douglas, who died after sustaining injuries to his chest, neck, back, torso, elbow and jaw at Shoestown, Bridgefoot Street, Dublin 1, on July 1st, 2016.

Gunman 'smirked'

During the trial, an eyewitness described how the gunman "smirked" and walked away after firing shots into the shop where Mr Douglas was working.

In passing sentence this morning, Mr Justice Michael MacGrath said that the mandatory life imprisonment term would apply and that he had sympathy for the Douglas family, who declined to give a witness impact statement.

Mr Justice MacGrath said that Canavan's two previous convictions for drug possession were not an aggravating factor in that they were not significantly relevant to the charges before the court.

Canavan, a father of a three-year-old girl, was also concurrently jailed for five years for criminal damage to the getaway vehicle used in the murder.

Both sentences were backdated to May 2020 when Canavan was taken into custody after a European Arrest Warrant was executed in the UK.

In 2018, gangster Frederick'Fat Freddie' Thompson  (41) was jailed for life by the Special Criminal Court for the murder of Mr Douglas.

In 2019, Nathan Foley (22) of Maryland, Dublin 8, was jailed for six years after he pleaded guilty to assisting a criminal organisation by driving one of four cars and buying mobile phones used in the offence.

Canavan's half-brother Gareth Brophy (26) was jailed in February 2020 for ten years also by the Special Criminal Court for his role as getaway driver.

After-school service

At trial, witness Shane Egan told the court that he was sitting in traffic in his van on Bridgefoot Street around 4pm on July 1, when he saw a man walking up the hill from Oliver Bond Street in Dublin's Liberties. "There was something strange about him which caught my attention," he said.

The witness said the man walked past 'Busy Bees', an after-school service on Bridgefoot Street and went into the entrance of Shoestown. "He stopped at the entrance and then I heard bangs, I thought they were fireworks at first," he continued, adding that he had heard five or six bangs in total.

Mr Egan testified that he saw the man jump backwards out of the shop and walk back down the street. "He wasn't running, just walking. He smirked at that stage and went around the corner in the direction of Oliver Bond Street," he said.

A worker at the 'Busy Bees' service also told the court how he instructed his colleagues to lock the door and get the children "out of the way" after hearing the shots.

Canavan, who appeared at the court by video-link, is the second man to be found guilty of the murder and the fourth to be convicted in relation to the shooting. He was identified by gardaí as being both a driver and a passenger in cars used in the murder.

Getaway car

Presiding judge Mr Justice Michael MacGrath said he was satisfied that Canavan was also part of an attempt to destroy a getaway car three days later to minimise the link between the accused and the murder.

It was the prosecution's case that the murder was a "meticulously and carefully planned assassination" and that Canavan was "the person who literally pulled the trigger" after entering Mr Douglas' shop shortly after 4pm on the day of the shooting.

However, Mr Justice McGrath said the court could not be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that Canavan pulled the trigger, due to the lack of identifying evidence or DNA. He said the court agreed that the murder had been "meticulously planned".

Professor Patrick Plunkett, a specialist in emergency medicine at St James' Hospital, said that Mr Douglas had penetrating wounds to the right side of his chest, back of his neck and beneath his jaw, he said. The witness said Mr Douglas could not be resuscitated and he was pronounced dead at 4.55pm.

Detective Garda Alan Curry said he had recovered a loaded semi-automatic pistol with its serial number removed next to the victim's head. The detective said he made the firearm safe at the scene by removing the magazine, which contained five rounds of ammunition.

Shots discharged

Three cartridge cases found on the floor outside the shop indicated that the shots were discharged from the roadway, he said, adding that the hammer of the weapon was still cocked and it had the capacity to hold 15 rounds of ammunition.

Canavan was also found guilty of a second charge of criminal damage to a Suzuki Swift vehicle at Strand Road, Sandymount, on July 4, 2016, the property of Teresa Devoy.

The non-jury court previously heard that Canavan was arrested on suspicion of criminal damage after he was found travelling at speed in a stolen vehicle which had repeatedly crashed into another car in south Dublin three days after the shooting.

Canavan had €1,065 in cash and his clothing smelled of petrol when gardai stopped him and Foley in Crumlin, in one of the four cars allegedly used in the killing of Mr Douglas.

The judge said that four different vehicles had been used in the murder in a "carefully planned assassination". A Mercedes car used in the killing was found burned out near the shooting and a stolen Suzuki Swift was then used to ferry those in the Mercedes away from the burn site.

Mr Justice McGrath said that each of the participants in the joint enterprise had a shared intention and separate roles in the killing.

The judge said he was satisfied that Canavan participated in the burning and ramming of the "ultimate getaway vehicle" - the Suzuki - three days after the murder. He said Canavan's intent was to "destroy" the Suzuki in order to tie up loose ends and minimise his connection to the murder.

At the trial, Sean Gillane SC, prosecuting, stressed that the actions of Canavan could not be "divorced" from the actions of Thompson, Brophy and Foley, who have all been jailed in connection with the murder.

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