Gardai who flew to US to interview Louth credit union robbery suspect told ‘the boys are gone’

James Flynn (31), was eventually extradited to Ireland from the UK on charges relating to the robbery nearly ten years ago, during which Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe was murdered

Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe (Garda/PA)

Alison O'RiordanSunday World

Gardai who travelled to the United States to interview James Flynn, who was wanted in connection with the Lordship Credit Union robbery, were instead met by his father who told them "the boys are gone, you will never get them", the Special Criminal Court has heard.

Mr Flynn (31), who was eventually extradited to Ireland from the UK on charges relating to the robbery nearly ten years ago, during which Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe was murdered, was today refused bail by the Special Criminal Court on the grounds that he is a flight risk.

The three-judge court also heard today that when applying for bail in the UK, Mr Flynn had offered the substantial sums of £185,000 in cash and a £965,000 independent surety.

Ruling on James Flynn's bail application today, Ms Justice Tara Burns said the three-judge court could not accept that the applicant was "anything but a flight risk". The judge said the flight risk in this case was "too great" to permit bail to be granted and that the probability of fleeing the jurisdiction was "well made out".

Mr Flynn, of Raven's Glen, Newry, Northern Ireland is accused of the robbery of €7K, the property of Pat Bellew, at the credit union in Bellurgan, Co Louth, on January 25, 2013.

He is also accused of conspiring with Aaron Brady, Brendan Treanor and others of entering a residential premises with the intent to steal the keys of a motor vehicle between September 11, 2012, and January 23, 2013. Brady was convicted of murdering Det Gda Donohoe in August 2020.

Delivering the ruling of the three-judge court today, Ms Justice Burns said Mr Flynn seeks bail for his trial, which is listed at the beginning of January next year, having recently been extradited to Ireland from the UK.

In April of this year, Westminster Magistrates’ Court ordered Mr Flynn's extradition back to Ireland but this was appealed to the High Court. The appeal was dismissed in July and Mr Flynn was brought back to Ireland to be formally charged with the credit union robbery. The judge said today that the applicant had left this jurisdiction very shortly after the alleged robbery in April 2013 and has since been in the UK and the US.

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Ms Justice Burns said the prosecution intended to adduce CCTV evidence of a distinguished BMW which they say Mr Flynn was driving at the time and which was seen at various locations in the CCTV footage in relation to the alleged burglary charge.

There was a sighting of a burned Passat which has been established to have been used in the robbery on January 25 and a sighting of the BMW going to and coming from the burn site in Northern Ireland, she said.

"These are all arms of the prosecution case, it is not for this court to concern itself with whether there will be a conviction in this matter," she said. The case against the applicant is of a "circumstantial nature" where the evidence is not viewed in isolation but "the culmination of various parts coming together", she said.

Clearly, the judge said, a case had been made out against the applicant in terms of what is anticipated to be the prosecution's case. The strength of the evidence intended to be brought by the State is enough to cause the court concern and it is of the view that there is potential for a conviction, she continued.

The judge said the prosecution's view is that Mr Flynn posed a flight risk due to him absconding from this jurisdiction in April 2013 after the alleged robbery by going to the US. He has been in the US, the UK and Northern Ireland for the last nine years.

She said Mr Flynn had not attempted to engage or cooperate with gardai and it was probable if he got bail that he would not stand trial for these matters. "For that ground alone the court will refuse bail," she stated.

She said the three-judge court had heard "very concerning evidence" about an interaction the applicant's father had with the investigating guard in relation to this matter. Mr Flynn's father had indicated that an interview could take place with his son in the US and gardai travelled to Boston clearly of the view that the interview would take place, she said.

Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe (Garda/PA)

However, when gardai went to the address they were instead met with a situation where the accused was no longer at the premises and his father uttered the words "the boys are gone, you will never get them".

Referring to the risk of interference with witnesses, the judge said there had been "very very concerning evidence" about the behaviour of Mr Flynn's father during the trial of Aaron Brady. "Obviously these are the father's actions and not Mr Flynn's. It was frightful how people were approached during this trial and the various things said," she added.

Aaron Brady (31) was found guilty of the murder of Det Gda Donohoe by an 11 to one majority jury verdict at the Central Criminal Court in August 2020. The father-of-one with a last address at New Road, Crossmaglen, Co Armagh, was sentenced to the mandatory term for murder of life imprisonment.

As he had been found guilty of murdering a Garda acting in accordance with his duty, he will serve a minimum of 40 years. Brady was also sentenced to 14 years for the credit union robbery - a sentence that will run concurrently with the life sentence. Brady’s trial was the longest murder case in Irish legal history, lasting 122 court days.

Ms Justice Burns said today that the court could not agree that Mr Flynn was not a flight risk with "the analysis of the evidence" placed before it today. The applicant did not attend for an interview with An Garda Siochana despite knowing at all stages that gardai had a great interest in speaking to him, she said. "Gardai were left to follow him to the US and were then treated in a manner which the court had just outlined," she added.

In summary, the judge said that whilst the court had grave concerns in relation to the possibility of interference with witnesses in this case, they were not refusing bail on that ground.

Earlier at today's bail hearing, Detective Inspector Mark Phillips told Lorcan Staines SC for the State, that gardai were objecting to bail under the “O’Callaghan principles”, where it was argued that the accused is a serious flight risk. The State also submitted that there was a real risk that Mr

Flynn would evade his trial and interfere with witnesses if he was granted bail. Summarising his objection on the flight risk ground, Det Insp Phillips said the applicant had offered "substantial sums of money" when he applied for bail at Westminster Magistrates Court, namely £185,000 in cash and a £965,000 independent surety. "I believe this clearly demonstrates that he has the financial means available to him to evade justice," he said.

The witness said that Mr Flynn, who has no previous convictions, holds a UK and US passport but not an Irish one and that he has no links or ties to this jurisdiction.

Det Supt Phillips also informed the court that during the trial of Aaron Brady, Mr Flynn's father and Mr Brady's father had allegedly engaged in behaviour "to actively try to provoke" members of the investigation team.

Mr Flynn's parents, wife and children reside in Northern Ireland and the applicant has the means to "move around easily" and set up new businesses, he said. "He has relocated addresses a number of times to the US, the north of Ireland and the UK," he said, adding that he is now a US citizen.

Det Insp Phillips told the court that there was an incident in December 2013 when Eugene Flynn Senior had invited members of An Garda Siochana to the US to conduct an interview with his son James. The witness said that within 24 hours of gardai arriving in the US, James Flynn was en route back to Ireland and no interview took place.

Asked by John Temple BL, defending, if there was any evidence that James Flynn knew about the meeting, Det Insp Phillips said they had flown there on the request of Eugene Flynn Senior and that there was an expectation that a meeting would take place.

At this point, Mr Staines asked the witness to tell the court what had happened when they went to Boston thinking they were going to meet James Flynn and Eugene Flynn Senior. "We called to the address provided by Mr Flynn along with US law enforcement. Eugene Flynn Senior came out of the residence as we were approaching the driveway. He went ballistic, he started abusing members of the gardai and US law enforcement agents.

He referred to them as "the boys aren't here, the boys are gone, you will never get them". Det Insp Phillips said they withdrew from the premises.

Under cross-examination, the detective agreed with Mr Temple that the CCTV from Lordship Credit Union depicted events but did not identify any individual and that there was no witness statement to say that his client was present on the night of the robbery.

In his submissions, Mr Temple said his client had been incarcerated since May 2021 and any means he had have since diminished. A €20,000 independent surety was proposed and for Mr Flynn to sign on daily at Castleblayney Garda Station, near where his parents-in-law reside.

Referring to the sums of money that had been offered to Westminster Magistrates Court, Mr Temple said that this was offered by Mr Flynn's family members and not the applicant himself.

A legal aid application for Mr Flynn will be dealt with before the non-jury court on Tuesday next week. Brendan Treanor (34), with a previous address at Emer Terrace, Castletown Road, Dundalk, Co Louth, is also charged with participating in the robbery. His trial will commence in January next year alongside Mr Flynn's. He was also refused bail in June 2022.

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