Josh Dunne murder trial: Eyewitness thought delivery cyclists were in danger

The court heard there was a sense of camaraderie between Deliveroo cyclists and that it was a close community
Josh Dunne murder trial: Eyewitness thought delivery cyclists were in danger

Alison O'Riordan

Two Brazilian food delivery riders were protecting themselves from being attacked by a gang of youths on the night schoolboy Josh Dunne was killed and had their hands up "in defence", a fellow delivery cyclist has told the Central Criminal Court.

An eyewitness also told the court that she thought the delivery cyclists were in danger as it was "10 against two".

George Gonzaga Bento (36), a Brazilian national, with an address in East Wall in Dublin 3 is charged with murdering 16-year-old Josh at East Wall Road, East Wall on January 26th, 2021.

The prosecution alleges that Mr Bento, a delivery cyclist, produced a knife during a "stand-off or confrontation" with a man on a moped who had stolen another delivery cyclist's bike. Josh Dunne and other youths arrived at the scene and got involved in the confrontation.

Bicycle

Giving evidence on Thursday, Brazilian Tiago da Silva, who was working as a Deliveroo cyclist at the time, said he locked the two wheels of his bike at the front entrance of Lidl on East Road Wall on the night of January 26th.

However, his bike - which had an electric motor and battery - was gone when he returned five minutes later. Mr da Silva said he was desperate to find the direction that his bike was taken so another Deliveroo driver gave him a lift in his car.

The witness said he could see the level of confusion when they stopped at the junction on East Wall Road. "I was able to see the very shocking image of a Deliveroo driver lying on the floor and he was being kicked by many people around him," he said.

When the witness got out of the car he saw two Brazilians against the wall and knew the situation was related to his bike.

When asked by prosecution counsel, Mr Sean Guerin SC, if he understood what the two Brazilians were doing when they were standing against the wall, the witness said they were "protecting themselves".

Mr da Silva said he did not see anything in their hands and was grateful to them for retrieving his bike.

Livelihood

Under cross-examination, Mr da Silva agreed with Padraig Dwyer SC, defending, that delivery riders get paid per delivery and not by the hour. The court also heard that they don't get compensated if their bikes are stolen.

The witness said his bike without the electrical equipment is worth €400 and €1,200 with the equipment, adding that the equipment was on his bike that night. He agreed that his bike was his livelihood and a mechanism for survival.

The witness said his first impression when he saw the two food delivery cyclists was that they were together and "everyone was against them". He agreed that a food delivery rider messages a Whatsapp group when a bike goes missing and the other delivery cyclists try to get the bike recovered.

He also agreed that he had said in his statement that the two delivery cyclists were trying to protect themselves that night, were keeping their distance and had their hands up "in defence".

The court heard there was a sense of camaraderie between Deliveroo cyclists and that it was a close community.

Walking

Helen Devine said she was out walking with her flatmate Sarah Conaty on the night in the direction of Dublin Port when she saw two delivery cyclists looking at their phones as a man on a moped shouted at them. "It appeared the man on the moped was trying to aggravate and escalate the situation. He seemed quite annoyed at them, but they tried to keep to themselves," she said.

Ms Devine said a group of teenagers arrived as they turned the corner onto East Road. The man on the moped, she said, was shouting at the "young lads" to join him in the altercation saying "back me up". She said the altercation started to escalate and punches were thrown.

Ms Devine's then flatmate Sarah Conaty told Mr Guerin that the man on the moped was shouting and squaring up to the two delivery cyclists. The witness said she heard the man on the moped tell one of the delivery drivers: "You're not such a hard man now" when a few of the teenagers crossed the road.

Ms Connaty testified that she also heard someone with an Irish accent say "be careful he has a blade" or "one of them has a blade" before she rang 999.

Under cross-examination, the witness told Mr Dwyer that she thought the delivery cyclists were in danger as it was "10 against two".

Flight

Earlier, Brazilian Lana Gerino said she lived with Mr Bento and his girlfriend but did not spend much time with the accused because he worked a lot.

On January 27, Ms Gerino said she met the accused's partner in the bathroom and she wanted to book a flight and needed help with it. Mr Bento's partner asked the witness if she could use her bank card to pay for the flight as her's was not working, which she agreed to.

Ms Gerino said she was unclear whether the flight was to Portugal or Brazil. The price for the flight was €574 so the witness said she concluded that it was for two people. Asked by Mr Guerin if she had heard about a boy being stabbed and dying at the time she made the booking, Ms Gerino said she had not heard about it but saw on a group that there had been a fight but had no more information.

Under cross-examination by Mr Dwyer, the witness said she did not know that the booked flights were cancelled later that afternoon. She agreed that she knew Mr Bento contacted a solicitor's firm in Dublin later that day and that the accused's girlfriend had tried to contact the Brazilian embassy as well. Ms Gerino also agreed that Mr Bento presented himself at a garda station the next day.

When asked by counsel to describe Mr Bento's character, she said: "Calm, hard working, fun. I didn't have that much contact with him because he was a hard worker. Any time we spent together was always good, never had a problem with him".

Ms Gerino said she lived in Dublin 3 and used the word "nanas" to describe certain groups of teenagers who hung around the area. She said there were many of these groups in East Wall and was aware of problems with Deliveroo drivers having their bikes stolen.

In his opening address, Mr Guerin told the jury that they may have to consider the issue of self-defence as Mr Bento had "invoked a fear" for himself and his friend when interviewed by garda.

Mr Bento is also accused of producing an article in a manner likely to intimidate another in the course of a dispute or fight, namely a utility knife. The defendant is further accused of assault causing harm to two other young men on the same occasion. The delivery cyclist has pleaded not guilty to each of the four counts.

The trial continues tomorrow before Mr Justice Paul Burns and a jury of five men and seven women.

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