Witness says murder-accused said he 'killed homeless man because he touched kids'
A witness has told a murder trial that the accused told her he had killed a homeless man because the deceased had been accused of ‘touching young kids’ and was a garda informant.
Charlene O’Connor was giving evidence to the Central Criminal Court today in the trial of another homeless man, charged with murdering Gerard Donnelly in a Dublin park in 2013.
The court heard that Gardaí found the 36-year-old’s body on fire in the Phoenix Park. The father of one died of blunt force trauma to the head and was already dead when his body was set alight and his little toe amputated.
Ciaran Moran (29), with an address at Camden Hall, Camden Street in Dublin has pleaded not guilty to murdering him at an unknown time during November 28th or 29th, 2013.
Ms O’Connor testified that she knew the accused and met him at Heuston Station on Thursday evening, November 28th so she could get diazepam. She said a foreign man approached him and handed him a bag, but Mr Moran asked him to hold onto it until later ‘because there was a charge sheet’.
She said that she and Mr Moran took the Luas to Connolly Station to get the diazepam and she asked what was in the bag.
“He told me there was a blow torch, hammer, cable ties and a wire and that’s all I needed to know,” she said.
She said she asked what they were for.
“He said it was to do with a man, who’d interfered with children and he was to be taught a lesson,” she testified.
She said they got their tablets at Connolly and later parted company at the Luas stop in Smithfield, where she lived.
She said that she had conversations with Mr Moran the following day before meeting him at a coffee shop in Smithfield on Saturday morning.
“He was looking at the paper. It was about him (the deceased) being found murdered in the park,” she said. “I asked him was it him who’d done it and he said yeah.”
She said she asked him why.
“Ciaran said the man had been accused of touching young kids and he was an informant to the guards and had to be taught a lesson,” she said, adding that he told her that two Germans were also involved.
“He had a new jacket and brand new Dre Beats,” she said, explaining that these were expensive headphones.
“He told me he’d bought a bike and he had €150 on him. Then he said: ‘You should have a look at my bank account’,” she added.
She confirmed that she took this to mean that he’d taken money from the deceased.
“I didn’t realise it had been done for money,” she said.
“He showed me two pictures on his phone. One was a toe and the other was a face but I couldn’t identify it,” she said. “Ciaran Moran said it was Gerry; it was proof to the Germans that he had done the job.”
She identified the photographs in court and they were also shown to the jury.
The jury also heard from Garda Peter Devane, who had encountered Mr Donnelly in the park on October 29th. He said he had a large quantity of cash in his hand and told the garda it was €8,500.
Gda Devane asked him if he could prove that it was his and he showed him a bank book with a recent withdrawal of €9,000. The total amount in the account was €140,000, testified the garda.
Gda Devane said he asked him why he was homeless when he had so much cash. He testified that Mr Donnelly said he didn’t get on with a lot of people, but that he hoped to go over to his daughter in the UK.
“I advised him of the dangers of keeping large amounts of cash on his person,” said Gda Devane. “He said: ‘I know Guard’.”
Earlier State Pathologist Professor Marie Cassidy testified that Mr Donnelly had catastrophic injuries to his face and head when she carried out a post-mortem exam on his body. She said these would have been caused by multiple blows from a moderately heavy object.
She said that death may not necessarily have been instantaneous, but he would have been rendered unconscious straight away. Death was due to brain injury and obstruction of breathing due to facial bone fractures and blood in his airways.
She identified a lump hammer found next to his head and said that this could have been ‘a potential causative weapon’.
She was also shown a pincers-type tool found next to his head, and said that this could have been the item used to amputate his little toe and to cause an incise wound to his left thumb. Both of these injuries, she said, were most likely inflicted after death.
The jury had already heard from the garda, who found his body on fire at 1.40am on November 29th.
Garda Nan Hu said he and his colleague had decided to investigate a small fire in case it would set fire to trees.
“I can still remember. I could see one hand up in the air. I said to Garda (Peter) Murtagh: ‘I think that’s a body’,” he testified.
Gda Hu went to the fire to check if it was a body or mannequin.
“I could see two hands in the air and … what appeared to be a burned penis and testicles,” he said. “I wasn’t sure what they were because they were deformed.”
He said that he called his colleague when he saw hair on the leg and knew that it was really a body.
The trial continues before Ms Justice Margaret Heneghan and a jury of nine men and three women.