Body in canal killed by bullet from gun ‘pressed against the head’, court hears

Accused dismembered victim with ‘high-speed mechanical saw’, pathologist says


A man whose chainsaw dismembered body was found in a Dublin canal was killed by a bullet fired into his head at point blank range, destroying his brain, a trial has heard.

Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis was giving evidence of his post-mortem exam to the Central Criminal Court on Tuesday.

Paul Wells (50) of Barnamore Park, Finglas in Dublin has admitted shooting dead fellow Dubliner Kenneth O’Brien and dismembering his body. However, the father-of-five has pleaded not guilty to murdering the 33-year-old at his home in Barnamore Park on January 15th or 16th, 2016.

He claims the deceased had wanted him to murder Mr O’Brien’s partner, so that he could take their child back to Australia, where he had previously lived.

He told gardaí Mr O’Brien had brought a gun to his house for this purpose but that he didn’t want to do it. He said this resulted in a scuffle between them, that the gun fell, they both tried to get it, but that he got to it first and shot his friend in the back of the head.

He said that he then panicked and “chopped him into pieces” with a chainsaw which he had been lent by Mr O’Brien.

Dr Curtis gave evidence of the examinations he carried out on the 10 parts of Mr O’Brien’s remains, which were recovered from the Grand Canal in a number of bags.

The parts included the head, torso, both upper arms, both forearms, both thighs and both lower legs with attached feet. The hands were never found.

He told Sean Gillane SC, prosecuting, it appeared that the dismemberment had been done with “a high-speed mechanical saw”. He said the muscle and bone had been neatly sawed.

He said an x-ray showed one of the Tesco carrier bags recovered contained the head and two bricks. The head had appeared to contain metallic fragments.

On further examination, he found a bullet entrance wound on the back of the head. He described it as an irregular wound, through which a little brain tissue had extruded.

“This is a contact entry wound,” he testified. “The muzzle of the weapon has been pressed against the head.”

He explained that all the products of the discharge had gone into the head, including the gas, which had caused the skull to balloon outwards.

He said the bullet had tracked forwards and very slightly downwards and was retained inside the cranial cavity.

“The brain was severely traumatised,” he explained. “It had destroyed the hypothalamus and midbrain.”

He concluded the death had been caused by a bullet wound to the back of the head. It caused catastrophic brain injury and would have been “instantaneously fatal”, he said.

Under cross examination by Michael O’Higgins SC, defending, he agreed that “the cutting was crude” and there was nothing to indicate that the person dismembering the body displayed “any anatomical knowledge”.