callous hit | 

Man (25) who lured his 'friend' gangster Wayne Whelan to his death jailed for seven years

Mr Justice David Keane said the defendant had used his friendship to lower Whelan's guard
Anthony Casserly

Anthony Casserly

Alison O'Riordan 

A trusted friend of gangster Wayne Whelan, who used his friendship to "lure" the Dubliner to a night out where he was instead repeatedly shot before his body was left in a burning car, has been jailed for seven years.

The Central Criminal Court heard that when news broke that it was likely Whelan who had been killed and set alight in the vehicle, the defendant Anthony Casserly went to Whelan's family home to "comfort" his mother.

Sentencing Casserly (25) today, Mr Justice David Keane said the defendant had used his friendship to lower Whelan's guard in circumstances where an attempt on his life "would have been up" [unviable], because of a previous bid to murder him. Earlier this month, Whelan's sister, Hazel Grainger, told the court in a victim impact statement that "the sickening part" was that her brother trusted Casserly, who had come to their family home that night when everyone was "frantically trying to locate Wayne".

Wayne Whelan in his hospital bed after the first attempt on his life

Wayne Whelan in his hospital bed after the first attempt on his life

Holding up a photo of her brother and Casserly to the court at the time, she said: "This photo shows how Wayne trusted this man". The court heard that Casserly had lured Whelan to his death under the pretence of inviting him to watch a soccer match between Ireland and Denmark. Evidence was also given that the victim's remains were found in the passenger seat of the burning car and he was so badly burned that he had to be identified by DNA analysis. Whelan (42) was shot dead at Mount Andrew Rise in Lucan, Co Dublin on the evening of November 18, 2019 and the car in which he was sitting was set on fire with his remains inside.

Whelan was well known to gardai for his involvement in serious and organised crime for more than two decades and had been shot a number of times in a previous murder attempt two months before his death.

Four men have been jailed for their roles in that attempted murder. Before delivering the sentence today, Mr Justice Keane said that Casserly and Whelan were known to each other and friends.

Whelan, he said, had been previously shot several times and survived so he was careful about his own safety and security. Regarding Casserly, Mr Justice Keane said Whelan had got a phone call from him on November 18 inviting him to go to a public house that night. Whelan's body was later found in the passenger seat of a Toyota car, which had burst into flames. Passing sentence, the judge said Whelan received at least three gunshot wounds to the back of the head in a position where the killer had been sitting in the back of the car and to his right. When rumours began to circulate that evening that Whelan's body was found in the car, Casserly messaged others to say he had decided to stay at home that night instead of going out.

He also told gardai that he had stayed at home all evening. The judge referred to a WhatsApp conversation on Casserly's phone from November 16 between himself and an unidentified person, where he said he was in a "very bad place" in the days leading up to the murder and this unidentified person "would read all about it in the future". Casserly tells the person: "I had no choice, it will click with you when done".

The accused also says: "I'm sick of it. I'll end up doing life". Mr Justice Keane said Whelan's sister, Ms Grainger, had described in her victim impact statement the deep regard in which the deceased was held by his family and friends and said she had spoken movingly about the deep void left.

The judge expressed his condolences to the Whelan's family for their loss.

The blazing car in which Wayne Whelan was found dead in Lucan

The blazing car in which Wayne Whelan was found dead in Lucan

Having regard to the gravity of the offence, the judge said Casserly had directly "lured" Whelan to his death and there was no suggestion that he could have reasonably thought that his telephone calls and movements had any other purpose.

"He used his friendship to lower Mr Whelan's guard in circumstances where it would have been up because of the attempted murder on him," he added. The judge also pointed out today that the nature of the criminal organisation was a gang with the disposition and means to engage in serious professional crime. A significant aggravating factor in the case, he said, was that the consequences of the assistance which Casserly had provided "was all too clearly the murder of Whelan". The judge said he was required to fix a sentence to show people that assisting criminal organisations can expect a serious penalty. Mr Justice Keane set the headline sentence at 12 years. In mitigation, the judge noted the defendant's admission of guilt, his absence of any prior convictions of criminal seriousness, his remorse, his relevant youth at the time and his willingness to rehabilitate. Casserly has 22 previous convictions which include 18 road traffic matters and four offences for possession of drugs. The judge said he was unable to view Casserly's text messages to another person as mitigating factors, where he outlined how bad he was feeling and how he felt "made to do something". "The texts demonstrated his fore knowledge of the seriousness of the crime that would occur and provided no context of the pressure he was under to facilitate that crime," he pointed out. Defence counsel Michael Bowman SC, for Casserly, previously submitted to the court that his client had indicated in his text messages that this was clearly not a "scheme of his making" and he was being forced to do something, which he said he just could not do. Casserly was sentenced to nine years in prison with the final two years suspended. It was backdated to when he went into custody on December 12, 2019. Last October, Christopher Moran (52), who had been on trial at the time for murder at the Central Criminal Court, pleaded guilty to being the getaway driver for the fatal shooting.

His co-accused Casserly then pleaded guilty to participating in or contributing to the murder of Wayne Whelan. Both pleas were accepted by the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP). Moran was previously remanded in custody to April 25, when a probation report will be produced and he will be given an opportunity to adduce further medical evidence. He will be sentenced at a later date. Moran and Casserly, both of Rowlagh Park, Clondalkin, went on trial last October having pleaded not guilty to Whelan's murder at Mount Andrew Rise on 18 November 2019.

However, Mr Justice Keane discharged the jury after Shane Costelloe SC for the DPP indicated that pleas to lesser charges would be accepted by the State. Casserly pleaded guilty to an offence under Section 72 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006 that he, with knowledge of the existence of a criminal organisation, participated in or contributed to the murder. Moran pleaded guilty to an offence under Section 7(2) of the Criminal Law Act 1997 for impeding the apprehension of an offender. His indictment states that he acted as a getaway driver in the murder of Wayne Whelan.

Gardai at the scene in Lucan after the body of Wayne Whelan was found in a burning car (Niall Carson/PA)

Gardai at the scene in Lucan after the body of Wayne Whelan was found in a burning car (Niall Carson/PA)

At the defendants' sentence hearing on January 13, a victim impact statement was read to the court by Whelan's sister, Hazel Grainger, who said that she never thought she would be in court talking about her brother in the "past tense" and described it as "utterly devastating". The witness said her brother was a family man, son, father, brother, husband, grandfather, grandson, nephew and most of all a friend. She said he was "the apple of my nan's eye", the first born baby boy to her parents and also the first grandchild. "He was absolutely doted on by the whole family and idolised all of us. He made everyone feel so special, valued and could talk about most things," she said. Ms Grainger said her brother, who was extremely generous and a loyal person, was robbed from their family in "such a horrendous way". "He would give you the shirt off his back," she added. She said Wayne wanted his family around him all the time. She continued: "We are such a close knit family and we did absolutely everything together. Wayne had a big circle of friends that he treated like a family, they ranged from all ages". The "sickening part of this", Ms Grainger said, is that Casserly became "one of those friends" and that Wayne had brought him into their family. Holding up a photo of her brother and Casserly to the court, she said: "This photo shows how Wayne trusted this man". She added: "Wayne also had family outings with this man so when Wayne said he was going to watch a football game with Anto it was not unusual". "He was taken from all of us in a horrendous way and we couldn't even say goodbye, his lifeless body set on fire. We feel absolutely robbed and will never get over this heartache". On November 18, she said, "news broke" that a man was found in a burning car. "Anto was one of the many people who came into our family home that night as everyone was frantically trying to locate Wayne.

Rumours spread that Wayne was in the car. My mam and dad were watching the news when it was discovered that a car was burnt with a person inside, both said to each other we pity that poor family," she said. "Anto grew up down the road from us.

Wayne had this picture especially done for Anto as a gift. Anto even said to another family friend the same night (November 18) - 'We will go up to the Kildare outlet to buy funeral clothes'.

Wayne had not even been identified at that stage. I feel sick thinking about it now, it sickens us all to the core. Anto even collected money from friends at this time to help Barbara [Whelan's wife] but never handed over a cent". Referring to her brother's funeral, Ms Grainger said there was a closed coffin and she is heartbroken at the thought of what her brother's body looked like.

"Anto and his father came to pay his respects, he has absolutely no respect for us. It is so cold-hearted knowing what he was involved in.

"There are absolutely no winners here, we are robbed of Wayne. We are haunted by the fact that he was left alone, burning in a car.

"My mam and dad were robbed of their baby boy; no parent should ever have to lose a child". In summary, Ms Grainger said that the worst thing is children in their family now know what murder and death is. "It was not done by a monster on television but so called friends we all knew.

"Wayne hated being on his own and everyone who knew him knew this about him.

"We are devastated and will never get over this. He was robbed from us all, all in a stone's throw from our family's home.

"These last two years have been hell on earth for my family and no words could explain the exact impact this has had on our family. Some days it feels like a horror show that should be on television and not in everyday life".

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