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Beaten with bars Lawyers claim memory of businessman attacked by gang is "riddled with problems"

The trial has heard that Mr McAndrew was beaten by a group of men wielding iron bars who demanded money.

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Tony Finglas

Tony Finglas

Tony Finglas

The memory of a businessman who was ambushed and attacked by a gang who demanded £50,000 from him is "riddled with problems", lawyers for the alleged driver in the plot have said.

Thomas McGuinness (34) of Chestnut Court, Johnstown, Navan, Co Meath and William Twomey (57) from Havelock Place, Warrenpoint, Co Down are both accused of falsely imprisoning Mayo businessman Mr Edward McAndrew by detaining him without his consent at One Ferry Hill, Cornamucklagh, Omeath, Co Louth, on or about December 2, 2017.

They are also charged with assaulting Mr McAndrew causing him harm and 'demanding £50,000 with menaces' at the same location and on the same date. 

The trial has heard that Mr McAndrew had been duped by email into believing that he was going to Cornamucklagh to purchase plant machinery when he was beaten by a group of men wielding iron bars who demanded money.

The men also claimed to be members of the Continuity IRA.

One male, Anthony Finglas (50), also of Havelock Place, has already been jailed by the court for demanding money with menaces from Mr McAndrew and was sentenced to four years and nine months last December after he pleaded guilty.

At Finglas' sentencing hearing, the court heard that Mr McAndrew had asked to be shot rather than endure the ordeal at the hands of his attackers.

Defending barrister Mr Roderick O'Hanlon SC, for Mr McGuinness, in his closing speech on Friday, told the Special Criminal Court that there was enough reasonable doubt regarding the identification of his client for the court to acquit.

Mr O'Hanlon said that there was a "high level" of difficulty in the identification of his client after Mr McAndrew told the court that he had identified Mr McGuinness from a Garda identity parade as the driver of the vehicle that took him to Cornamucklagh.

Mr O'Hanlon said that two vehicles were involved in bringing Mr McAndrew from Dundalk to the remote mountainside site, where he was to view the plant machinery but was instead ambushed, beaten and put into the boot of a car after the demands for money began.

The court heard that Mr McAndrew first went to the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Dundalk to see about the machinery, where he was met by a "ginger male, aged 25-30 in a Seat Toledo", who counsel said is alleged to be Mr McGuinness.

However, after travelling in convoy with the Toledo, Mr McAndrew missed a turn at Carrickdale roundabout and was told by a male on the phone, identified as "Barry" in the court, that he would "send back the young lad" to meet him again.

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Mr McAndrew gave evidence that a Volkswagen Caddy then met him and that he got in to continue on the way to Cornamucklagh.

Mr O'Hanlon said that the prosecution had not put before the court what speed the two cars were moving at when Mr McAndrew said he first identified the driver of the Toledo when in the car park of the hotel.

The barrister also said that there was no evidence before the court that the driver of the Toledo could then be identified by Mr McAndrew from either his "full face" or side face.

He added that, because "Barry" had told Mr McAndrew that he would be sending back the same driver, Mr McAndrew's identification of this driver as being the same driver of the Toledo was then "prejudiced" and "unreliable".

Mr O'Hanlon said that Mr McAndrew had given evidence that the driver of the second vehicle, the Caddy, wore a cap with ear flaps down, covering his hair. Mr O'Hanlon also said that his client also has a large tattoo on the left side of his neck but that this was never mentioned by Mr McAndrew in evidence. He said Mr McAndrew would have at that point been in the passenger seat next to the driver in the Caddy.

The barrister said that Mr McAndrew told the court that the driver of the Caddy took a phone call while driving from a person Mr McAndrew assumed to be his girlfriend yet there were no phone records or forensics linking Mr McGuinness to this call.

Mr O'Hanlon said that Mr McAndrew's "evasive" evidence had a "high degree of memory infrequency" and that questions had also been answered with questions by Mr McAndrew in the context of his "poor memory".

Mr McAndrew has told the trial that he did not know how many people were in the room in Drogheda Garda Station when he picked Mr McGuinness as the driver but that he picked the man who "resembled" the driver the most, said the barrister.

"At all stages, the gardaí are reinforcing the one-driver theory, that's all they ever refer to," said Mr O'Hanlon.

Regarding the burden of proof and reasonable doubt, Mr O'Hanlon asked the court "would you make a life-changing decision based on the evidence you have?"

The barrister said that the one of the difficulties with identification evidence is that "honest people can be certain about identification but still be mistaken".

Mr O'Hanlon said that, upon arriving at Cornamucklagh, Mr McAndrew did not see "anything or anyone", which pointed towards the driver of the Caddy also not seeing anyone either. The driver of the Caddy departed immediately, he said, and therefore any criminal intention on the part of the driver could not be proven as he quickly departed the scene of the attack before it occurred.

Mr O'Hanlon said that there was no logistical or forensic evidence against his client and that the identification parade at Drogheda Garda Station took place three months after the incident, with Mr McAndrew then experiencing a memory "riddled" with problems due to the after-effects of the attack. 

Mr Twomey is also charged with the robbery of car keys, approximately £200, a travel bag and its contents, a wallet and its contents, a briefcase and its contents, two mobile phones and an Irish passport from Mr McAndrew.

Both men have pleaded not guilty to all charges at the Special Criminal Court.

After hearing closing speeches from both the prosecution and defence, presiding judge Mr Justice Tony Hunt adjourned matters to August 31 and remanded both accused on bail to that date.

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