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James Walsh shot himself during shooting incident in Dublin, court hears

James Walsh
James Walsh

The State would have made the case that a gunman shot himself in the leg whilst escaping from the scene of a shooting at a church carpark, the Central Criminal Court has heard.

The court also heard that the victim was shot twice before taking sanctuary at a garda station.
 
James Walsh (30) with an address at Rahanine Manor, Rochfortbridge, Co Westmeath but originally from Clondalkin pleaded guilty to possession of a pistol firearm with intent to endanger life at the Church of the Transfiguration, Bawnogue Road, Clondalkin, Dublin 22 on March 26, 2014.
 
Prosecution counsel, Mr Brendan Grehan SC, told the court that this plea was acceptable to the DPP and that a nolle prosequi – a decision not to proceed– will be entered on another count of attempted murder of Michael Frazer (37) at the same place. 
 
At today's sentence hearing, Sergeant Katherina Joyce of Clondalkin Garda Station outlined the facts of the case. 
 
The court heard that the offence arose as a result of a shooting that occurred at the Church of the Transfiguration in Clondalkin at 6pm on March 26, 2014.
 
Sgt Joyce agreed with Mr Grehan that a number of eye witnesses who were in the vicinity on March 26 had described hearing a number of shots being fired. 
 
One witness was able to describe seeing a light coloured Mini Cooper car with a black roof driving around a church carpark, said Mr Grehan. 
 
“She had looked out and described a man standing at the car and something long and skinny, about 10cm in length down by his side, he raised it as if he going to shoot and pointed it at the car. She described the car taking off,” said Mr Grehan.
 
Another witness said there was a Mini Cooper car in a carpark as well as a man dressed in black who was seen chasing a car which was trying to get away from him.
 
 
A short time after the Mini Cooper car left the carpark it was seen driving very erratically in the direction of Clondalkin Garda Station and the driver was seen throwing an object which transpired to be a mobile phone out of the car window, the court heard. 
 
The barrister said the Mini Cooper pulled up on the pavement outside Clondalkin Garda Station and the driver of the car presented himself at the public office where he was dealt with. He was bleeding and in a distressed state.
 
This man was Michael Frazer from the Drimnagh area of Dublin and he was known to gardai, said Mr Grehan.
 
Mr Frazer told gardai he had been shot at and indicated “it was something to do with Crumlin/Drimnagh.”
 
Sgt Joyce agreed with counsel that Mr Frazer also mentioned “a blue Fiat Stilo car.”
 
Mr Frazer removed the t-shirt he was wearing. He had a number of visible injuries to his body.
 
The ambulance services were called and paramedics attended the scene and dealt with Mr Frazer who had two gunshot wounds. One to his right bicep which had an entry and exit wound and a second one to the right side of his chest under his arm which had no exit wound.
 
“This was the sum total of medical evidence available in respect of this matter,” said Mr Grehan.
 
Mr Frazer (pictured below) was removed to hospital and operated on but he declined to allow gardai access his medical records and declined to make any statement to gardai.
 
Sgt Joyce agreed with counsel that he had arrived at Clondalkin Garda Station seeking sanctuary but refused to assist the investigation.
 
The court heard that as a result of events a garda investigation ensued and effectively the case resulted in quite an amount of circumstantial evidence linking the accused to the shooting. This included CCTV, telephone analysis, ballistic and DNA evidence. 
 
 
Sgt Joyce agreed with Mr Grehan that a Fiat Stilo car identified at the scene was of relevance to the garda investigation.
 
Information was given to gardai an hour and a half after the shooting and on the back of this Sgt Joyce and her colleagues went to an address at Carrow Road, Drimnagh in Dublin 12.
 
This was the address that James Walsh was residing in at the time but gardai did not get any response and so forced entry into the house. 
 
“On a previous occasion gardai attending at that address had taken note that a blue Fiat Stilo with a particular registration number had been parked close to the vicinity of that house,” said Mr Grehan.
 
Walsh was not in the house at the time but gardai went to the back garden where they found a number of items including a man’s jacket which came to be of significance in the investigation.
 
A further search on the following day resulted in a telephone being recovered in the garden next door to the house at Carrow Road “on a route that might have been taken by someone who had left the house and was trying to get back on the road.”
 
The blue Fiat Stilo car was located, seven days later on April 2, not far from Dublin Airport.
 
Gardai took possession of this car and various examinations were conducted on it. 
 
CCTV footage was taken by gardai from a number of locations as part of their investigation and it was possible to ascertain that Mr Frazer’s Mini Cooper was seen entering the church carpark shortly before the shooting and later leaving. 
 
Sgt Joyce agreed with counsel that CCTV footage also showed a second car, the blue Fiat Stilo, entering and exiting the church car park and it was similar to the car located at Carrow Road.
 
Mr Grehan said that when gardai located the car in the vicinity of Dublin Airport one week later, based on circumstantial evidence they concluded it was the same car from the church grounds at the time of the shooting.
 
Sgt Joyce agreed with counsel that gardai also obtained footage from a hotel at Dublin Airport which identified the accused and showed he had some kind of problem with his leg.
 
Mr Grehan said it was “very significant evidence in terms of the trial” that a phone call made a number of minutes after the shooting incident “pinged off the mast” on the Nangor Road after the shooting occurred. 
 
The court heard that the coat recovered in the back garden of Carrow Road had blood-staining on it and its DNA matched the DNA of the accused.
 
Blood-staining on the front passenger seat of the Fiat Stilo also matched the accused.
 
Sgt Joyce agreed that a ballistics examination concluded that there was firearm residue found on the inside of the coat located in the back garden of Carrow Road.
 
Also a bullet hole was found in the passenger seat of the Fiat Stilo as well as a number of discharged bullets and shells found at the scene.
 
“As a result of this there would have been evidence from a firearm residue expert to say that there was comparative elements in all of the case,” said counsel.
 
Mr Grehan said that evidence from a firearms expert said the bullets and shells bore similar characteristics which suggested they had a similar origin. 
 
“The result of this would be to connect circumstantially Mr Walsh to the Fiat Stilo and to connect it to the scene of the shooting,” he said.
 
The court heard there was a hole in the passenger seat and it would have been the prosecution’s case that Walsh had injured himself while in the passenger seat.
 
The accused was arrested on December 5, 2014. He was detained and questioned about this matter but chose to make no comment.
 
The gardai also sought to have Walsh medically examined while in custody to see if he had an injury to his leg but he declined to allow that happen.
 
Mr Grehan said from all the circumstantial evidence the prosecution’s case would have been that Walsh was the person seen by eye witnesses, dressed in black and shooting at Mr Frazer in the carpark. 
 
“He must have shot himself in the leg when he was back at his car leaving the scene,” he said.
 
The court also heard Walsh had a number of convictions including one under the Firearms Act which the prosecution submitted meant he had to receive a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years in prison for this offence.
 
Sgt Joyce told the court that Walsh was engaged to be married to his long-term partner and he is a father to three children from three former partners. She also agreed with counsel that Mr Frazer declined to take part in the investigation.
 
Walsh was then remanded in custody ahead of the remainder of his sentence hearing on December 14.