Three Irish men acquitted of killing fellow criminal in Netherlands
Three Irish men have been acquitted in the Netherlands of killing fellow Irish criminal Keith Ennis.
However a Dutch court did convict them of dismembering Ennis’ body with a chainsaw and dumping the body parts in a lake in Amsterdam.
Philip County (28), Barry McArdle (30) and Kenneth Brunell (29) were sentenced to two years in prison for hiding a dead body - a felony under Dutch law.
The judges said in their verdict that the outcome of the investigation into Ennis’ violent death is "highly unsatisfactory, especially for Ennis’ next of kin, who do not know who murdered him."
The court decided that there was insufficient evidence that the three men killed Ennis.
Ennis (29) was stabbed to death in February 2009 in an apartment in Rotterdam, the second biggest city of the Netherlands.
He had been lying low in Holland, after he allegedly fell out with former criminal associates. Shortly before traveling to Amsterdam Ennis had been arrested by the Gardai, who subsequently raided a warehouse in Dublin where a large supply of drugs was found.
Shortly after Ennis arrived in Holland on Februray 24, his body was found dismembered in Het IJ, a lake in the heart of Amsterdam. Several body parts were found in plastic bags and although it was clear his death had been violent, the police had trouble identifying the body.
Only after his fingerprints were sent to gardaí were the Dutch detectives able to identify Ennis.
According to court proceedings, the Dutch police found after a long investigation, that Ennis had been in touch with his fellow Irishman Philip County while he was in Holland, although the nature of their acquaintance remained somewhat vague.
County is the only suspect who has given a statement to police about the death of Ennis. He claims his fellow suspects Barry McArdle and Kenneth Brunell were responsible for the murder. County and McArdle, who have each been convicted in Ireland on drug related offences, had allegedly travelled to Holland to lie low as well.
The Dutch public prosecutor deemed County’s statement as trustworthy and asked the court in April for 11 years imprisonment for McArdle and Brunell. For County the public prosecutor demanded a year long prison sentence, for helping to hide the body.
According to County, Ennis was murdered in an apartment in Rotterdam, where he came to socialise with County, McArdle and Brunell. County told the police he stepped out to get liquor and when he came back, he found Ennis had been stabbed to death. According to County, a heated discussion while they played PlayStation had turned violent.
After that happened County, McArdle and Brunell worked together to dismember Ennis’ corpse and to dump him in the water.
But the Dutch court ruled that although some parts of County’s statement are clearly supported by other available evidence, County most likely did not tell the whole truth.
Because of this, it can not be determined without doubt that it were McArdle and Brunell who killed Ennis.
Quite the opposite: the court thinks it is possible County himself played a bigger role in Ennis’ death than he claimed. Brunell and McArdle have denied any wrongdoing, saying County had dropped them off at a local stripclub, hours before the murder took place. They say they never even met Ennis.
Because murder could not be proven, the men were sentenced only because of their "gruesome and shameless treatment" of Ennis’ body. The Dutch judge ruled that "as long as there is a real possibility that a suspect is innocent, he needs to be acquitted, even if there are indications of wrongdoing."
Brunell has served his time while awaiting trial and is expected to return to Ireland shortly. McArdle is also expected to return to Ireland as he awaits his appeal.