Delivery cyclist denies he aware of schoolboy's death before booking flights home to Brazil

George Gonzaga Bento has denied that he was aware of the schoolboy's death before booking flights home to Brazil. 
Delivery cyclist denies he aware of schoolboy's death before booking flights home to Brazil

Alison O'Riordan

A food delivery cyclist on trial accused of murdering Josh Dunne during a stand-off over a stolen bicycle has denied that he was aware of the schoolboy's death before booking flights home to Brazil.

George Gonzaga Bento was being cross-examined for a second day by the State in his murder trial at the Central Criminal Court.

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

Mr Bento is also accused of producing a utility knife in a manner likely to intimidate another in the course of a dispute or fight. 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 prosecution alleges that Mr Bento 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.

Knife

Mr Bento told gardaí in his interviews that he had used a knife to defend himself from the man on the moped and the gang of youths. He said it was only his intention to intimidate them when he took out the knife and make them go away. He said he stabbed the first and second males who punched and attacked him as he was scared and wanted to protect himself.

On Tuesday under cross-examination, Mr Bento denied to Sean Guerin SC, prosecuting, that he acted the "hard-man" on the night and wanted to deal with the situation himself while armed with a knife, rather than involve gardaí.

He also disagreed that whilst the attack on him and his fellow delivery cyclist by the man on a moped and the group of youths was "ugly, violent and unlawful" there was no real attack on his life that night.

Continuing his cross-examination on Wednesday, Mr Guerin put it to Mr Bento that at the time he punched Josh Dunne and the second male, the situation was not that dangerous. "I was there, I saw the level of aggression. The guys attack us, they continue to help the thief, I was at risk," he said.

Fight

It was also put to the accused that he had changed his account of what happened at the scene from it being just a fight to a life-threatening situation, which Mr Bento disagreed with.

The accused also disagreed that he was trying to persuade fellow delivery driver Tiago da Silva - who owned the stolen bike - in his text messages not to go to gardaí on the night.

The accused agreed with Mr Guerin that he was afraid of turning himself in as he did not know what the law was like in Ireland.

Mr Guerin put it to the defendant that when he made a booking to fly to Brazil he did so in the belief that gardaí might have identified him in the knowledge that someone had died and that he had a small window to get out of Ireland. "We were confused, afraid and it's not only me that decided to book the ticket. We talk with friends and my fiancée, and we look for a safe place,' he said.

Children

The lawyer also put it to Mr Bento that he had considered bringing his children to Ireland and up until the minute of learning about the death of Josh Dunne he was fully committed to life in Ireland but in an instant he had decided to abandon it all and return to Brazil. "We were afraid, it was better to keep life and start over in another place," he replied.

Mr Guerin asked the accused if it had not been for the Covid restrictions and the need to get a Covid test would he have got a flight on January 27th. Mr Bento said he did not know.

Counsel put it to Mr Bento that he had not looked for an Irish lawyer until after gardaí came to his house. The accused said he did not know if anyone contacted a lawyer until before or after this.

"In short you knew you were cornered and because you were cornered you stopped running?" asked Mr Guerin.

"I wasn't running. I just looked for legal advice and wondered how to proceed," he said.

Mr Guerin put it to the accused that his fellow delivery worker Mr Guilherme Quieroz went straight to a garda station when he knew someone had died. "I didn't have much contact with him the next day," said Mr Bento.

Garda

"If you generally thought you were a victim of an assault and had done no more than defend yourself, you would have gone to the police too?" asked Mr Guerin. "I didn't know the law," replied Mr Bento.

"It's not about knowing the law, it's about honestly knowing you did the right thing," stated Mr Guerin.

The lawyer continued: "And because you didn't have an honest belief that what you did was right you deleted WhatsApp from your phone?"

Mr Bento said he did not know when WhatsApp was deleted.

The lawyer said the evidence was that WhatsApp was deleted after 1.15pm on January 28.The accused told him that he did not remember.

Mr Bento said he met his lawyer at around 9am on January 28 and said he did not remember if he had deleted WhatsApp during his consultation.

"You must have had four or five hours of consultation with your lawyer before you deleted WhatsApp from your phone?" said Mr Guerin.

"I don't remember what time specifically," he replied.

Whatsapp

Mr Guerin said the evidence was that WhatsApp was deleted after 1.15pm on January 28 and that the accused's meeting with his lawyers had ended around 1pm or 2pm. "Can you think of any reason why WhatsApp was deleted before the meeting ended," pressed counsel. The accused said he couldn't.

The barrister put it to Mr Bento that he had deleted WhatsApp as he was aware of the death of Josh Dunne before he booked his flights to Brazil, that he knew the messages showed that he had persuaded follow delivery driver Tiago da Silva not to go to gardaí and that he knew the messages showed he had avoided going to detectives. The accused disagreed with the proposition.

The accused's fiancée Cohelo Macedo has testified that she was afraid for her and Mr Bento's safety and that the teenagers would come and attack them. She said that on January 27, she decided they would go to Brazil the following day and began looking for a flight immediately. Ms Macedo said she did not know that someone had died at the time she had the conversation with George.

When they left the house to get Covid tests at the airport on January 27th, Ms Macedo said they already had their flights booked.

Garda Paul O'Leary has testified that an image or a screenshot of a tweet was found on Mr Bento's phone which was sent to him on WhatsApp at 22.27 on January 26th. The witness said the tweet referred to three people involved in a serious incident in East Wall and that one of these three people was fatally wounded.

Ga O'Leary also gave evidence that he accessed a deleted WhatsApp chat between the accused and Mr da Silva on Mr Bento's phone, which took place on the night of January 26th and into the morning of 27th.

In the conversation Mr Bento told Mr da Silva: "I was saying to Guilherme to let the investigation proceed to see will they come to us [sic]".

The accused continued: "If we turn ourselves in I don't know what law is like here".

Co-operation

Mr Bento also disagreed with Mr Guerin that he only cooperated with gardaí because he knew he was caught and had hidden some important evidence that officers wouldn't be able to find.

"I suggest you did these things for the reason that you gave a false account of the fight to your partner and you never thought the force you used was reasonable," said Mr Guerin. The accused said he disagreed.

Under re-examination, Padraig Dwyer SC, defending, asked his client if he had wanted to go to the garda station on the evening of January 27th, but a solicitor had advised him not to. Mr Bento agreed that this was the case.

Mr Dwyer informed the jury of five men and seven women that the defence case was now closed.

Addressing the 12 jurors, Mr Justice Paul Burns said they had now heard all the evidence in the trial and that the next part of the trial process would be closing speeches and the judge's charge.

Mr Justice Burns asked the jury to return to court next Wednesday for the closing speeches and the judge's charge.

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