Aaron Connolly, the man accused of murdering teenager Cameron Reilly who was found dead in a field four years ago, “lied from the beginning of this investigation to the end” because he murdered his friend, a barrister for the State has told a murder trial jury.
In his closing speech to the jury on Friday, prosecuting counsel Dean Kelly SC said Aaron Connolly didn’t lie because he experimented sexually with Cameron Reilly or because he had been smoking weed on the night. Mr Connolly lied, counsel said, because “he murdered his friend Cameron Reilly in that field”.
He said everything Aaron Connolly had said, from the moment he and Cameron Reilly left the rest of the group, was “self-serving nonsense”.
“I suggest to you that you are required to look closely at all of the lies told in this case and ask yourselves what kind of liar is Mr Connolly, because liar he most certainly is,” Mr Kelly told the jury. “He has lied from the beginning of this investigation to the end. Top to bottom, back to front, it’s lies.”
He said the “constant fox-like evolution” of the lies told by Mr Connolly rebuts the suggestion that a young person might lie to protect his personal sexual preferences. He contended that “rationality, reason and intelligence” permits only one verdict in this case and that is guilty of murder.
However, in his closing statement to the jury, Michael Bowman SC defending, said “strategic lies” were told by several young people who were there on the night. He said people had lied about drug and alcohol use in a murder trial because they were afraid.
“Strategic lies are being told. I’m going to ask you to juxtapose them to show that in circumstances like that telling the truth can be difficult,” Mr Bowman said. “The defendant was 18, in a Garda station, locked in a cell when he’s not being interviewed by gardaí.”
He said a number of the teenagers “weren’t being entirely honest” and, counsel submitted, that could be said to be “self-serving” as they were “minimising exposure”.
Mr Bowman said this is a case where “inferences loom large”.
He told the jury that if those inferences are equal then they must fall in favour of the defence. He said the law goes further and those inferences don’t have to be equal; if the more likely one is the prosecution and the less likely one is the defence then they must find in favour of the defence, he said.
During the closing statements of the trial of the now 23-year-old, Mr Kelly said, in a sense this case was about lies and about science. He said lies are the subject of “grey areas” but science tells the truth.
People lie for all kinds of reasons, Mr Kelly said, but science tells us certain things and it tells us those things with absolute certainty.”
“Lies are something that can be put under the microscope at least metaphorically. I suggest to you that you are required to look closely at all of the lies told in this case and ask yourselves what kind of liar is Mr Connolly because liar he most certainly is. He has lied from the beginning of this investigation to the end.”
“Everything he has told you from the moment that they left the group is nonsense and it’s self-serving nonsense.”
Mr Kelly said it was up to the jury to decide whether Aaron Connolly lied to conceal his privacy or because at some time between 12.40am and 1.40am he asphyxiated Cameron Reilly, his friend, and left him dead or dying in that cold field.
Counsel said Connolly lied with “precise details”, all of which were “invented in the mind of a man weaving a story to defend his own interests”. The second aspect of the way Mr Connolly lied, he said, was the “constant evolution” of the lies as the evidence from investigating gardaí was skilfully and carefully put in front of him.
“There is artfulness and care in the way Mr Connolly lies, there’s rich detail in it,” he said adding the detail of that rebuts and “absolutely destroys” the suggestion that these are lies told for an “honest or understandable reason”.
“These are lies told by a murderer to protect a murderer,” Mr Kelly told the jury.
He said in his statement to gardaí on May 26th, Aaron Connolly said Cameron Reilly was in “good form” when he left him at the entrance to the Beechwood estate and he “never looked back” to see which way he [Cameron Reilly] went.
“All nonsense, it never happened it didn’t exist, he carried on with Cameron Reilly, we know that now only from two days ago,” said Mr Kelly.
He said Aaron Connolly had “pointed the finger of allegation” for the murder at someone else, lied about his account of his time with Cameron Reilly and laid the groundwork of defence for his lies about time, telling gardaí he couldn’t remember what happened in the final, unaccounted for hour before he is seen on CCTV walking through the town.
“There’s a richness of detail right to the moment he’s about to leave Cameron and then it’s a black after that,” said Mr Kelly, adding Connolly then tells gardaí the reason he can’t recall the last hour is because he was taking cocaine and MDMA.
When asked about his sexuality by gardaí, on foot of the DNA evidence available, Connolly said he had never been with a man but Jack Conway rebuts the lies put forward by Connolly in interviews, telling gardaí he had sexual relations with the accused on a number of occasions, counsel said.
“The DNA evidence is put to him and he can’t explain it, he says it’s wrong,” the barrister said, adding this was despite the fact that his clothing was laden with Mr Reilly’s DNA.
Prosecuting counsel said the evidence from pathologist Dr Linda Mulligan made it clear that Cameron Reilly was “seriously and savagely assaulted” and that whoever inflicted those injuries intended to cause serious injury to Mr Reilly.
She had outlined the significant injuries to the front of the deceased’s neck and that these were unlikely to have been caused by a ligature, as these would almost always leave specific marks, but rather by a chokehold or a rough surface implement.
He said the accused had made a formal admission on Wednesday that he gave oral sex to Mr Reilly. He said those admissions were “skeletal” and “bereft of any detail whatsoever”.
“Finally the penny has dropped that detail is not his friend, that detail has never been his friend. That’s ultimately how you catch a liar; in the detail ,” counsel said.
Responding to Mr Kelly in his closing statement, Mr Bowman told the jury it is important to remind ourselves what law actually is.
He said Mr Kelly went through “every aspect practically of where he says the lies were being told”.
However, Mr Bowman told the jury: “The law says the mere fact that the defendant lies is not evidence enough. They may lie out of panic and confusion; they may lie because they’re afraid for all sorts of reasons.”
Counsel said Dean Kenny, a witness in the case who did nothing wrong, had lied to gardaí initially because he “didn’t want to be falsely accused of anything”.
He said once the air of suspicion hangs over you and you’re being asked questions under oath, “it puts you in a difficult position” and, he said, that’s the position Aaron Connolly found himself in.
He told the jury they must be careful what they draw from the fact that gardaí had asked a gender fluid young man if he was straight.
He said Aaron Connolly was asked if he had ever experimented sexually, “maybe he answered that in a slightly ambiguous way or maybe experiment doesn’t mean to Mr Connolly what it means to a detective garda”, counsel said.
“He left himself exposed as a consequence of his lies, and the fear of being falsely accused ironically resulted in him being charged, " said Mr Bowman.
He said if this case reduces itself to the propositions advanced by Mr Kelly then the only verdict is not guilty.
Aaron Connolly, of Willistown, Drumcar has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Mr Reilly (18) at Shamrock Hill, Dunleer on May 26th, 2018.
Mr Justice Tony Hunt will give his directions to the jury of seven women and five men on Monday.