Jessica Magee and Sonya McLean
A Dublin man who was solicited by an acquaintance to kill his wife's friends has been jailed for two years for extortion.
Alan Leech (38) was described during an earlier sentence hearing last month as an opportunistic “local junkie” who had milked his acquaintance Bryan Kennedy "like a cash cow” when Kennedy approached him about murdering the women his wife had met online.
Leech, of Loftus Hall Apartments, Hazelbrook Square, Churchtown, Dublin 14, pleaded guilty to demanding money with menaces on three occasions during January 2020.
The threats were made to Kennedy and his wife.
At the sentence hearing last month, the court heard that Leech and Kennedy knew each other as their children went to the same school.
Kennedy confided in Leech that his wife was having an online relationship with a couple who lived in Canada and that he believed the only way to salvage his marriage was to arrange for the couple to be killed.
Garda Tony Galway told Karl Moran BL, prosecuting, that Leech quoted the figure of €10,000 and led Kennedy to believe that he had contracted third parties to carry out the murder.
Last January, Kennedy, of Mount Tallant Avenue, Harold’s Cross, Dublin, was sentenced at the Central Criminal Court to four and a half years in prison for soliciting Leech to murder two women on a date between October 2019 and January 2020.
Kennedy’s sentence was deferred to allow time for him to put in place care for his children.
Judge Orla Crowe jailed Leech for two years after she said this scheme led to him making repeated demands for money from the victim and his wife.
“It was deliberate and there were repeated demands that were nasty in nature. An unlawful criminal scheme that he had entered into with her husband – a wicked scheme,” Judge Crowe said.
She said Leech had taken advantage of “a highly unusual situation” but accepted that he pleaded guilty and was remorseful.
Judge Crowe said Leech had “pursued a vulnerable woman at her home on three separate occasions”. She said the offence warranted a headline sentence of three years but given the mitigating factors in the case she reduced that to a two-year jail term.
Gda Galway told the court last month that Kennedy, who was on social welfare, borrowed money from family members, friends and neighbours and paid Leech the sum of €8,000 to arrange the murder.
Investigating gardaí took 65 screenshots of WhatsApp messages between Leech and Kennedy about the organisation of the murder and how it was to be carried out.
The court heard that Leech never contracted any third parties nor planned to carry out a murder, but had simply taken advantage of Kennedy’s mistaken belief that he had criminal connections.
When Kennedy failed to pay the outstanding €2,000, Leech’s messages became more direct and threatening. Leech told Kennedy that the third parties were threatening him for the rest of the money and that he had been beaten up in front of his kids.
He said these third parties had come to his house several times and stolen things and that he had begged them “on his hands and knees” but that they wouldn’t listen and were “like animals”.
Some of Leech’s messages were read out in court, including: “I’ll carve your f*****g throat. Don’t dare text me back with your sob stories ‘cos I’ll f*****g end you.” On January 6, 2020, Kennedy left Ireland for the UK out of fear of Leech and the threats he was making.
Kennedy left his phone and some belongings with his friend, along with instructions to his wife to keep their children locked in the house, to take a different bus home from school and to be wary of Leech.
Kennedy’s wife said Leech met her at the school gates and asked where Kennedy was.
A few days later, Kennedy’s wife opened her door and saw Leech standing at the hedge. He told her that her husband had been watching everything she had been sending online to the Canadians and wanted to “send a hit over to make it stop”.
Leech said he would be kneecapped by the third parties if he didn’t get the €2,000 and took a photo of Kennedy’s front door. “He got pissed off,” Kennedy’s wife later told gardaí.
The following day, Kennedy’s wife heard a knock at the door. She sent her children upstairs and called the guards but heard Leech kicking the door and saying, “I’ll be back later.”
Leech also sent her messages on Facebook saying her husband had sent him photos of the Canadian couple for the purpose of identifying them for the murder.
The court heard Kennedy returned from the UK and went to Nutgrove Shopping Centre with his wife on January 11, when they heard two whistles and saw Leech, who approached and threatened that he would personally “carve” Kennedy’s face.
Gda Galway told the court that no arrests were made for some months, as gardaí wanted to first ensure that nobody in Canada or Ireland was in immediate danger.
Leech has 43 previous convictions, including 27 for theft in 2009 for which he served an 18-month sentence. He told gardaí on arrest that he had a drug debt and had just taken advantage of Kennedy.
“Bryan thought I was involved in gangs and I played along. I thought, if he’s not man enough to control his wife, I’ll take advantage of it,” he told gardaí.
The court heard that at one point Leech had an earbud in his ear while talking to Kennedy to pretend that he was on the phone to third parties who were threatening him.
“I got it from watching films,” Leech told gardaí.
A victim impact statement submitted by Kennedy’s wife said she has been frightened of leaving the house ever since she was threatened by Leech.
She said she has recurring PTSD nightmares and that her disability has flared and worsened so badly because of stress that she is now in a wheelchair. “This man has ruined my life, my mental and physical health and my children. My children’s father is in jail because of this,” she said.
Justin McQuade BL, defending Leech, said his client had no gangland connections and had simply played Kennedy “like a salmon” by pretending that he was in contact with third parties.
“There was a couple of Walter Mittys on both sides,” said Mr McQuade.
He described Leech as “nothing more than a local junkie” who had been “criminally opportunistic” and had milked Kennedy "like a cash cow”.
The court heard Leech had a chronic addiction to cannabis, cocaine and crack cocaine. Mr McQuade said Leech had expressed remorse and had pleaded guilty early.
Letters were presented to court from Leech’s father and from Merchants’ Quay Ireland, outlining their willingness to engage with Leech.