Ballistics experts fired bullets at tea towels to see if murder accused was correct

David Cully
David Cully
Edward O'Connor
Edward O'Connor

Ballistics experts fired bullets at tea towels to see if a murder accused was correct when he said he shot his uncle from 30 feet, a murder trial has heard.

A forensic scientist was giving evidence in the trial of Dublin father-of-one David Cully, who has admitted killing Edward O’Connor. The 41-year-old died of two gun-shot wounds to his back.

Cully claimed he shot him ‘in the heat of the moment’ after he commented about somebody who had made an allegation of sexual abuse against him (the deceased). The allegation was investigated, but the DPP had decided not to prosecute.

The 24-year-old of Kilshane Road, Finglas West has pleaded not guilty to murdering his uncle, but guilty to his manslaughter, at Ballycoolin Road, Finglas West on December 15th, 2013.

Dr Thomas Hannigan told the Central Criminal Court that he found firearms residue on Cully’s tracksuit bottoms and on his victim’s jumper. The residue was similar, he testified yesterday.

He was then asked to consider Cully’s assertion that he’d fired at his uncle from 30 feet, along with another possibility that he was shot from less than eight feet.

“Normally that’s done with a series of test firings using cotton sheets and the firearm and ammunition used in the shooting, and comparing the result with the clothing of the victim,” he said.

“It is possible to estimate the distance from which shots were fired,” he added, explaining the Sodium Rhodizonate test, which examines the level of lead on the garments.

He noted that the firearm was never retrieved in this case, so he asked ballistics expert Detective Garda Seamus O’Donnell to provide a pistol and ammunition as close as possible to what had been used.

Detective O’Donnell then fired two shots at each of the tea towels from the two different distances.

He said he found a strong positive for the presence of lead on Mr O’Connor’s jumper and on the tea towel shot at from eight feet. He found only a weak result on the tea towel fired at from 30 feet.

“These results support the suggestion that Edward O’Connor was shot from a distance of approximately eight feet rather from 30 feet,” he concluded.

Under cross examination by Caroline Biggs SC, defending, he agreed that it would be highly desirable to have the fire arm and ammunition used in the killing to make the test more reliable.

He also agreed that Mr O’Connor’s jumper was a knitted-type material and that the two tea towels used, one grey and one pink, were of a different texture from the jumper and from each other.

“I can’t believe it would have been such to affect the outcome of the test,” he said. “That is the standard method of doing the test.”

However, he agreed that (forensic) literature would say the two cloth samples should be the same.

“The results I found are more likely if the shots were fired at not greater than eight feet rather than at 30 feet,” he said.

However, he agreed that it was ‘possible’ that it could be somewhere between the two.

The prosecution has now closed its case and the trial continues before Mr Justice Carroll Moran and a jury of seven women and five men.