Alison O’ Riordan
A man has been found not guilty by the non-jury Special Criminal Court of murdering gangland figure Eamon Kelly, who was shot dead as he walked towards his home on the north-side of Dublin on a December afternoon nine years ago.
Delivering judgment on Monday, presiding judge Mr Justice Alexander Owens convicted Mr Donohoe's co-accused Darren Murphy of murdering Kelly but said there was "insufficient evidence" to establish that Mr Donohoe was the driver of the getaway car, that he was in possession of a Glock handgun or that he had some direct role in the murder gang.
Referring to Murphy, the judge said there was only one credible explanation from the evidence, which was that he was part of the common design to murder Kelly and had acted in concert "as the net closed in" on the deceased. The accused's role was to act as a "spotter" and he had tipped off his associates to tell them that Kelly was on his way home, he said.
Furthermore, the three-judge court found that Murphy was part of the "murder gang", that he was driving an Opel car and that he had carried out surveillance on the day of the murder and on two days prior.
Mr Justice Owens said the court could not definitely say that Mr Donohoe was the man in CCTV footage, which related to the driver of a Lexus car, as the footage was of insufficient quality to make an identification.
Mr Donohoe (43), of Hazelgrove, Tallaght, Dublin 24, and Murphy (51), of George's Place, Dublin 1, had denied the murder of 65-year-old Eamon Kelly at Furry Park Road, Killester, Dublin 5, on December 4, 2012.
Both men had also pleaded not guilty to the possession of a firearm - a Glock pistol - with intent to endanger life, on the same date and at the same location.
Father-of-nine Kelly was shot four times in the back as he walked towards his home in north Dublin in December 2012. He was one of the country’s most well-known criminal figures, having been involved in organised crime for more than four decades.
In 2015, Sean Connolly, then aged 35, of Bernard Curtis House, Bluebell, Dublin was jailed for life by the Special Criminal Court for the murder of veteran criminal Kelly.
Murphy was found not guilty of a second charge of possession of a firearm, a Glock pistol, with intent to endanger life, on the same date and at the same location. The three-judge court found there was insufficient evidence to establish that Murphy was in possession of the firearm.
Mr Justice Owens, sitting with, Judge Sinead Ní Chulachain and Judge Dermot Dempsey found Murphy was as guilty of the murder as Connolly. The three-judge court will hand down the mandatory sentence of life imprisonment to Murphy on January 17th, 2022 and remanded him in custody until that date.
After the judgment was delivered, defence counsel Brendan Grehan SC, for Mr Donohue, asked for his client to be discharged from the indictment, which the court granted.
Opening the prosecution case in June, prosecuting counsel Dominic McGinn SC said it was the State's case that both men were connected to the shooting through "nine broad categories of circumstantial evidence" including CCTV footage, fingerprints, links to vehicles, DNA and firearm residue.
The barrister said the gunman had been associated with a dark saloon car, which was seen driving in the area. "[The gunman] got into that for the getaway and some of the witnesses have identified that car," he continued.
Shortly after 4pm, emergency services were called to a burning car, which transpired to be a 1996-registered black Lexus, said Mr McGinn. The vehicle had been set on fire at Stiles Court in Clontarf, near the rugby club, and there were sightings of suspicious activity immediately before the car was set alight.
Mr McGinn said the State's case was that Connolly was the single gunman, but various aspects of circumstantial evidence connected Mr Donohoe and Murphy to the shooting.
The lawyer said that Male A - who he suggested was Mr Donohoe - was allegedly identified as the driver of the black Lexus, who had brought Connolly to the scene and driven the car away afterwards. Male C, he said, was Murphy and was connected to the green Opel Meriva car, which was in the vicinity prior to the shooting as a "spotter" car.
Another category of circumstantial evidence, Mr McGinn said, were fingerprints and several of these were found in the green Opel Meriva, he said. "One is identified as belonging to Mr Donohoe and six are belonging to Mr Murphy," he highlighted.
It was the prosecution case that Mr Donohoe and Connolly travelled in an Audi A4 to the Lexus and then travelled in the Lexus to the scene of the shooting, he explained.
Counsel said the crux of the matter against Mr Murphy was that seven gardaí identified him from CCTV and that the car was seen at George's Place where the accused lived.