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Trial latest DNA from Kevin Lunney and alleged kidnapper found in a van, court hears

It was “at least a thousand million” times more likely that the DNA came from them than anyone else unrelated, the scientist said


Trial: Businessman Kevin Lunney

Trial: Businessman Kevin Lunney

Trial: Businessman Kevin Lunney

DNA from businessman Kevin Lunney as well as one of his alleged kidnappers was found in a van suspected to have been involved in his abduction, the Special Criminal Court has heard.

A forensic scientist said DNA taken from stains inside the Renault Kangoo matched the profiles of Mr Lunney and accused man Darren Redmond.

It was “at least a thousand million” times more likely that the DNA came from them than anyone else unrelated, the scientist said.

Blood found in a horsebox on land in Co Cavan owned by co-accused Luke O’Reilly was also found to be Mr Lunney’s, the non-jury court heard.

Mr Redmond and Mr O’Reilly are on trial along with two other men charged over Mr Lunney’s abduction and torture in 2019.

Mr Lunney (52), a Quinn Industrial Holdings director, was bundled into a car outside his Co Fermanagh home and taken to a horsebox where his captors broke his leg with a wooden bat, slashed his face with a stanley knife and doused his wounds in bleach while ordering him to resign from the company.

They carved “QIH” into his chest with the knife before dumping him, stripped to his boxer shorts, on a roadside in Drumcoghill, Co Cavan.

Mr Redmond (27), of Caledon Road, Alan O’Brien (40) of Shelmalier Road, both in East Wall, Dublin, and a man who cannot be legally named, known as "YZ" (40), are alleged to have been directly involved in the attack.

Mr O’Reilly (67), from Mullahoran Lower, Kilcogy, Co Cavan is accused of providing “material assistance in the planning and execution of the offences."

They all face the same charges of false imprisonment and causing serious harm to Mr Lunney at Drumbrade, Ballinagh, Co Cavan, on September 17th, 2019, which they deny.

The court has previously heard the Kangoo is alleged to have been used by YZ, Mr O'Brien and Mr Redmond to travel from the north inner city to Co Cavan on the day of the abduction.

The prosecution does not maintain that Mr Lunney was ever in the van, but suggested his blood might have been "transferred" to it. The Kangoo was destroyed in a fire while it was still in garda custody, after the forensic examination.

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Today, Forensic scientist Dr Edward Connolly said he went to the garda vehicle examination centre in Santry on October 31, 2019 to examine the Kangoo.

He said he carried out a Luminol test, which reacts with blood to produce a blue light and allows identification of potential areas of interest. In darkness, he sprayed the interior of the Kangoo van and an area became luminescent.

He turned on his torch and immediately saw an area of staining on the metal on the door. He turned off the torch and continued his examination. An area on a black metal pole behind the driver’s seat also gave a positive reaction with the luminol test.

These areas were swabbed by Det Gda Ursula Cummins and sent to the lab at Forensic Science Ireland, as were swabs taken from the blue horsebox at the yard in Drumbrade, Co Cavan, six bleach bottles from Luke O’Reilly’s home, and DNA reference samples from Mr Lunney and the accused.

Dr Connolly told prosecutor Sean Guerin SC the DNA profile generated from a sample taken from the horsebox matched the DNA reference sample of Kevin Lunney.

The swabs from the sliding side door of the Kangoo, which were tested for the presence of blood, contained a major DNA profile that also matched Mr Lunney’s reference sample profile.

Statistically, it was “at least a thousand million times more likely the DNA originated from Kevin Lunney than from an unknown, unrelated person,” Dr Connolly said.

A DNA profile generated from the sample from the black metal bar in the Kangoo matched that of Darren Redmond’s reference profile, with the same statistical likelihood of “a thousand million.”

These  samples also had some additional DNA elements at a minor level which did not affect Dr Connolly's interpretation. Analysis of other swabs from the Kangoo revealed a low-level incomplete mixed DNA profile from several sources, but this was not further interpreted.

Five of the bleach bottles, Domestos brand, were either empty or had a “residual volume” of bleach. Two of them had DNA samples that matched the reference profile of Luke O’Reilly, with the same statistical likelihood that it was his. No profiles were generated from the other three Domestos bottles, or from a sixth bottle of Harpic which still had most of its volume.

In cross examination by Michael O’Higgins SC, for YZ, Dr Connolly agreed he had described finding a “red-brown stain” on the Kangoo door which he suspected might be blood. He pointed the areas of interest out to Det Gda Cummins, who took swabs.

Giollaíosa Ó Lideaha SC, for Alan O’Brien, asked in cross examination if it would be a fair request and a legitimate approach if a scientist was asked to carry out a “rigorous and skeptical analysis” of the process connected to the DNA evidence, taking an original sample from the original source. Dr Connolly replied that it would.

He agreed the stain on the door was clearly visible.

Cross-examined by Michael Bowman SC, for Mr Redmond, Dr Connolly agreed it could not be determined in this case how long DNA had been on a particular item or under what circumstances it came to be present “via a transfer or otherwise.”

Dr Connolly agreed with Michael Lynn SC, for Luke O’Reilly that the bottles of bleach with residual volume were also essentially empty.

Mr Lynn asked if he could say what biological material the DNA samples he identified came from. He said after the material had been through the standard test for the presence of blood, the generation of a DNA profile from it “would indicate that it came from blood.”

The stain in the horsebox had been confirmed to be human blood rather than animal blood. Mr Guerin asked Dr Connolly about his level of confidence in the view that the source of the matched DNA from the Kangoo was blood.

He replied that there was a “high probability” the profiles originated from blood.

Earlier, the court ruled on two legal challenges to prosecution evidence that had been brought by the defence. It had been argued that Mr Redmond’s arrest at his home was not valid because the householders were not told the purpose of the arrest.

The gardai had called twice and arrested the accused on the second occasion after his mother told them he was upstairs.

Det Sgt Sharon Walsh said the gardai were “more or less invited in and there was no issue,” she said.

Mark Lynam BL, for Mr Redmond, argued that when exercising their power to enter a house it was “It’s not enough to rely on the fact that they don’t complain.”

Mr Justice Hunt said the court found there was no deficiency in the legal requirements and the arrest was valid.

The court also ruled location evidence arising from GPRS data connections made by a phone number attributed to Mr Redmond on September 17, 2019 was admissible.

Mr Bowman had argued this type of data was “not in the purview” of the legislation.

The trial continues before Mr Justice Tony Hunt, Judge Gerard Griffin and Judge David McHugh.

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