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kidnap trial Evidence against three men "doesn't pass muster" in Lunney kidnapping trial court hears

Four men are currently on trial over the kidnapping of Mr Lunney


Businessman Kevin Lunney

Businessman Kevin Lunney

Businessman Kevin Lunney

Evidence against three of the accused men in the Kevin Lunney kidnapping case is "well overstated", "beyond speculation" and "doesn't pass muster," their barristers have told the Special Criminal Court.

One lawyer conceded the actions of his client were “suspicious” but said the evidence against him “fell short” of proof of guilt. He said the accused had simply been “allocated lead roles” in the kidnapping although other unidentified people were involved.

Closing speeches for the defence were being delivered today in the non-jury trial of four men charged over Mr Lunney's abduction and torture in 2019.

The prosecution had closed its case yesterday, after nine weeks of evidence.

Mr Lunney (52), a Quinn Industrial Holdings director, was bundled into the boot of a car by a masked gang outside his Derrylin, Co Fermanagh home and driven to a yard where his captors held him in a horsebox while attacking him and ordering him to resign from the company.

During a 45-minute assault, his leg was broken with a wooden bat, his face slashed with a stanley knife and his wounds doused in bleach. One of his assailants carved “QIH” into his chest with the knife before he was dumped, stripped to his boxer shorts, on a roadside in Drumcoghill, Co Cavan.

Four men are on trial over Mr Lunney's kidnapping.

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

Luke 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 17, 2019, which they deny.

The prosecution alleges the now-deceased Cyril McGuinness, also known as “Dublin Jimmy” had coordinated the kidnapping.

Michael O’Higgins SC, for YZ, conceded that some of his client's actions had been “suspicious” but urged the three judges “to avoid a conclusion that might appear logical and could appear to sit side by side with the suspicions, but falls short of the requisite proof.”

He said there were four “vehicles of interest” in the case, including a Renault Kangoo van alleged to have been used by YZ, Mr O’Brien and Mr Redmond to travel from a Dublin apartment complex to Cavan on the 17th and and a black Audi alleged to have been used to abduct Mr Lunney.

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McGuinness was connected by the prosecution to both vehicles, having “openly imported” the Kangoo. He was believed to have been present when the Audi was sold.

YZ had been linked by the prosecution to the Audi through its e-flow tag which had been transferred at some point to the Kangoo. It was found in YZ’s home and he told gardai he took it from the Kangoo when it was being sold. Scenarios suggested by the prosecution as to how the tag got into the Kangoo were “grievously flawed,” and there was “not a shred of evidence” to support them, Mr O'Higgins said.

His client had been described as “forensically aware,” yet the tag was found sitting on his kitchen counter.

It was common case that YZ knew McGuinness for many years but the extent of that relationship, on the evidence, was unknown, Mr O'Higgins said.

There was “very regular” phone contact between June 2019 and the end of September and Mr O’Higgins said it was “not unusual” for YZ to be in and about the border.

He acknowledged that McGuinness had been “no saint” but said “there’s no concept in law known as guilt by association.”

It had been accepted by the prosecution that there must have been other people involved in the kidnapping and prosecutor Sean Guerin SC had suggested a higher up “big boss,” Mr O’Higgins said.

Despite this, the prosecution had “simply allocated” lead parts to the people leaving Dublin in the Kangoo van. The court had to ask how many other people might have been in the group.

“It appears, almost by a process of osmosis that the people before the court are being allocated the lead roles,” he said.

Call data could only be used to show people being in contact and geographical areas but the prosecution had invited the court to conclude what was said in conversations and there was no evidence for this.

YZ was not charged with being reasonably suspected of the offences but of actually committing them and Mr O’Higgins said the evidence was “well overstated” and “suspicious interactions are being converted by the prosecution into matters of fact.”

The prosecution said the likelihood was that the Audi was stored at the yard in Drumbrade.

“These scenarios are not supported when you go through the nitty gritty of the case,” Mr O’Higgins said.

“The grit is not there and there’s an attempt to backfill it by inviting the court to reach conclusions that are not evidentially based.”

It was a fact that on September 17, the Kangoo was “uncomfortably close to the heat” of certain aspects of the events. It was also a fact that the van was not used to kidnap Mr Lunney.

If it was not known what its role was it was difficult to assess the roles of the people connected to that van, he said.

Mr O’Higgins said the most “seminal” part of the prosecution’s evidence was Mr Lunney’s description of the Audi driver being on a phone call saying “boss, this man has resisted.”

However, there was no record of this call being made to or received by McGuinness. If it was suggested they were using burner phones, minutes later was the “jewel in the crown”; a call at 7.52pm from YZ’s phone to McGuinness’s, followed immediately after by a call from McGuinness to Mr O’Reilly’s phone, followed shortly after by the trip to Lynch’s shop (where bleach was bought.) These calls were made on their regular phones, Mr O’Higgins said.

An inability to reconcile this was a problem for the prosecution, he said.

The court has heard Mr O'Reilly bought bleach in a shop during the time Mr Lunney was imprisoned and the prosecution alleges this was to assist the abductors.

The “tying together” of the buying of bleach with these phone calls “sits very uncomfortably” with the call to “the boss,” Mr O'Higgins said.

On the DNA evidence in the Kangoo, he asked why his client, a man with a forensic textbook in his home, “would not better wash the van down.”

The gardai could not make up their minds whether the van had been locked or open when it was found. He said the garda vehicle technical examination facility where the van was kept was “not secure” as a garda had entered it to remove a surveillance device and it was not recorded.

Mr O’Higgins accepted that in their first technical examination, the gardai could have missed the stain in the van where Mr Lunney’s DNA was found.

But he said “we don’t really know how this got there, or when it got there.”

“We are not pointing the finger at anyone saying it was planted, we are just not really sure,” he said.

He conceded that circumstances in the case were suspicious but they could not lead the court to inexorably conclude that the men in the Audi who took Mr Lunney were the three men in the Kangoo van.

Giollaíosa Ó Lideaha, for Mr O’Brien said the prosecution had not proved that his client left either the apartment complex or Dublin in the Kangoo on the day of the abduction, September 17.

Mr Guerin had said the court could infer that Mr O'Brien went on the 17th by referring to a similar trip on the 16th.

“There is no rational, logical basis for a leap of that kind,” Mr Ó Lideaha said.

The prosecution said there was no other way out of the apartment complex other than in the van but this had been “proven to be incorrect” and there were other possible ways including a wall that could have been climbed over, he said. It was also possible to have left in another vehicle, or back into the apartment complex.

There was no CCTV, forensics or phone evidence to support the prosecution’s contention that Mr O’Brien was outside Dublin on the 17th, and Mr O’Brien had made a specific assertion in interview that he “didn’t leave Dublin that day.”

The prosecution could prove no telephone contact between Mr O’Brien and Cyril McGuinness ever, or that he was party to any of the alleged communications from him.

There was no dispute that Mr O’Brien was in the van at the apartment complex on September 16 and it was clear he was visible on CCTV in Applegreen, Virginia, Co Cavan later that day but there was no evidence of any kind of preparations being made, Mr Ó Lideaha said, and no evidence to show any basic prior agreement required in joint enterprise.

The prosecution had also suggested “without a shred of evidence” that Mr O’Brien was driving the Audi on the 16th and that the car was stored in the yard in Drumbrade.

CCTV of the Kangoo and a black car driving through Killeshandra at the same time “does not a convoy make,” he said.

Mr O’Brien had left the Kangoo at a yard in Co Meath on October 23, 2019 when it was seized by the gardai but there was “no hint or suggestion of any criminality” in this as the van was to be sold, not “burnt or dumped in a lake.”

In his statement, Mr Lunney had described one of his abductors as having blond hair, yet Mr O’Brien’s hair was dark enough that gardai had put him in an ID parade on another issue where they were trying to identify a man with black hair. The garda custody record described Mr O’Brien’s hair as brown.

In evidence of Mr Lunney’s DNA from the van, the defence had established there was a reasonable basis for concluding it was not there on the date of the first technical examination, October 29. It was for the prosecution to prove it was there but they could not do it because “they don’t know who had access” to the facility and did not take minimal steps in logging this.

Even if the DNA was considered, Mr O’Brien had no case to answer, Mr Ó Lideaha said.

Michael Bowman SC, for Mr Redmond said his client had been identified on CCTV solely by a garda who had never met him personally. In one CCTV still, the man the garda purported to identify was walking away.

On the phone evidence, he said Mr Guerin had told the court in “two lines” of his closing speech that Mr Redmond’s presence on the trip to Cavan on September 17 was supported by location data from his phone.

“That is the prosecution putting its best foot forward,” he said.

The prosecution was fully aware of the evidence’s shortcomings and that it proved nothing other than the presence of a phone in a vehicle, he said.

The court had heard Mr Redmond’s DNA was found on a bar behind the driver’s seat in the Kangoo and Mr Guerin had suggested it got there while Mr Redmond left it there while holding it to make himself comfortable in the journey in the back of the Kangoo.

This was “beyond speculation,” Mr Bowman said, asking the court to disregard the theory.

The van’s history was unknown but it was known that it was left unlocked after it was brought into the country. It was in the custody of a friend of Mr Redmond - YZ - and whenever observed it was near Mr Redmond’s home.

Mr Bowman asked “how do we know beyond reasonable doubt that Mr Redmond’s DNA is not there as a transfer?”

It was also suggested by the prosecution that Mr Lunney’s DNA was in the Kangoo because he was bleeding and Mr Redmond pushed his head into a ditch before “quickly” getting into the van leaving him at the roadside.

This “makes absolutely no sense” and is “not evidentially sustained in any way, shape or form,” Mr Bowman said.

The prosecution had recognised that what it perceived to be cogent evidence in the phone location data was “not cogent” and instead had placed weight on the DNA evidence which it “cannot bear.”

The evidence “simply doesn’t pass muster,” Mr Bowman said.

Michael Lynn SC, for Mr O’Reilly is due to make his closing speech on Friday before Mr Justice Tony Hunt, Judge Gerard Griffin and Judge David McHugh.

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