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Court of appeal hears "joined eyebrows" evidence given to support murder conviction

Gary Campion
Gary Campion

A man with "joined eyebrows" was spotted near the scene of a fatal shooting, a distinguishing feature jurors were able to observe on a murder accused prior to convicting him eight years ago, the Court of Appeal has heard.

Gary Campion has moved to appeal separate convictions for the murders in Limerick of bouncer Brian Fitzgerald outside his home and Frank Ryan who was shot by a passenger in his car while driving.

The 31-year-old, last of Pineview Gardens, Moyross, Limerick, had denied being involved in the murder of Mr Fitzgerald (34) at Brookhaven Walk, Corbally, on November 29 2002 and had also denied murdering Frank Ryan (21) on September 16 2006.

He was found guilty in two separate Central Criminal Court trials and was given two life sentences, first by Mr Justice Peter Charleton on November 15 2007 and then by Mr Justice Paul Carney on May 28 2009.

Opening the hearing in the Court of Appeal on Tuesday, counsel for Campion, Martin O'Rourke SC, said the trial for the murder of Mr Fitzgerald should not have been allowed to proceed because the defence weren't in a position to have a key prosecution witness psychologically or psychiatrically examined.

Convicted murderer James Martin Cahill was the primary witness against Campion in the Fitzgerald trial, Mr O'Rourke said, and the case “depended entirely” on his evidence.

Medical notes found evidence of Cahill's paranoia and hallucinations, Mr O'Rourke said. Cahill had complained that he was hearing voices which had “talked to him about things he had done” and “gave him instructions from time to time”.

When inconsistencies were put to Cahill, he repeatedly fell back into explaining them away by saying “he had heard voices etc,” Mr O'Rourke said.

An appropriate medical examination would have confirmed or alternatively may have excluded any disorder Cahill had and that would have allowed the defence to approach the case on a firm footing, Mr O'Rourke submitted.

Counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions, Denis Vaughan Buckley SC, accepted that the main evidence against Campion was the evidence of Mr Cahill.

However, taken together with other evidence, some of which was capable of corroboration, he said the jury were more than competent to convict Campion of murder.

Mr Vaughan Buckley made submissions on various matters which, he said, independently supported the evidence of Mr Cahill.

These included a taxi driver's account of collecting a man matching Campion's description near a blazing motorbike shortly after the shooting and driving him to Campion's address in Moyross.

During the journey the man told the taxi driver his grandfather was in St John's Hospital as a patient and he may go to see him. Later, a nurse gave evidence that Campion's grandfather was in hospital at that time, counsel said.

Alice Fitzgerald, the deceased's widow, gave evidence that after her husband was shot, she saw a man outside the window whose jet black 'eyebrows met' in the middle.

Mr Vaughan Buckley said the jury were looking at Campion in the box, “the joined eye-brows and all that”.

It was quite a strong case against Campion, Mr Vaughan Buckley said. “Not the strongest case in the world” but “the cumulative effect of all the evidence was quite strong”.

He said the jury were conscientious. They had asked for CCTV evidence to be replayed and for a taxi driver's evidence to be recalled. They unaminously came to the decision that Campion was guilty.

Cahill was “certainly a pervert and a major criminal,” Mr Vaughan Buckley said, but that did not mean he could not tell the truth. That was also for a jury to decide.

The defence had a report from a psychologist which gave them all the ammunition they needed to cross examine Cahill “and they duly did; he was cross examined for six days”.

Shane Costelloe SC, also for the DPP, said it was admitted that the trial judge had no jurisdiction to order that Cahill undergo analysis.

Mr Costello said the defence had a huge volume of material in relation to his mental infirmaties and it wasn't correct for Campion to say now that they weren't in a position to have a report on Cahill's medical conditions prepared.

Campion's appeal against his second murder conviction for the killing of Frank Ryan will be opened tomorrow before President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice Seán Ryan, Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan and Mr Justice George Birmingham.

Additional submissions from Tuesday by Mr O'Rourke SC, for Campion:

It seems the witnesses evidence was purely "whimsical" Mr O'Rourke said. At one stage, John Dundon disappears from his account, the gun evidence changes and on another day he might say something different about another person.

One cannot rely on anything this witness said, Mr O'Rourke said. A provisional assessment had found Cahill to be suffering from psychopathy but he needed to be examined further to find out.

That was why a medical examination was necessary and proceeding without one rendered the trial unfair. It was a matter on which the jury were entitled to medical assistance, Mr O'Rourke said.

The court heard that Cahill referred to a Larry McCarthy and resiled from that. He said another man provided the gun; that changed. Instead of going to that man's home, he went to the garage and John Dundon “came in and out” of his evidence.