Dublin man admits killing and dismembering Kenneth O’Brien

Paul Wells claims the deceased, whose torso was found in a canal, wanted him to kill his partner

File image of Kenneth O’Brien, who was killed in January 2016.

File image of Kenneth O’Brien, who was killed in January 2016.


A Dublin man has admitted killing a father-of-one and dismembering his body, parts of which were later found in a canal.

On Wednesday, the man, Paul Wells snr (50), of Barnamore Park, Finglas, pleaded not guilty to murdering 33-year-old Kenneth O’Brien at Mr Wells’s home on January 15th or 16th, 2016.

Mr Wells had told gardaí that the deceased had wanted him to murder Mr O’Brien’s partner, and the two had fought following his request to do this.

Sean Gillane SC, prosecuting, opened Mr Wells’s murder trial at the Central Criminal Court on Wednesday morning.

He told the jury that Mr O’Brien had been living with his partner, Eimear Dunne, and their son in Clondalkin. He had just returned from Australia, where he had been working.

He was due to go to work in Limerick on Friday, January 15th, and he stopped replying to Ms Dunne’s text messages that afternoon, something that she found odd.

However, she received a text from an unknown number in the early hours of the following day. The sender was purporting to be her partner, telling her that he had lost his phone and was going to stay overnight in a hotel.

She became suspicious, however, when she received another text message from this number a few hours later. Again purporting to be the deceased, the sender wrote that he’d met someone else, was leaving her for them and was heading to the ferry. There was also a reference to her caring more about another family member than about him.

The sender had misspelled Mr O’Brien’s name and this, along with the tone and language of the messages, made her question if they had really come from her partner.

“You’ll be satisfied on the evidence that those texts did not emanate from Kenneth O’Brien,” said Mr Gillane.

Ms Dunne began contacting family, friends and acquaintances to see if they knew where her partner was. This included her contacting the accused, who told her that her partner was having an affair in Australia. He showed her “some texts and photos of a particular nature concerning this woman”, said Mr Gillane.

Mr O’Brien was reported missing to gardaí on the evening of January 16th.

Earlier that day, two walkers had noticed a suitcase with red ribbons attached, floating in the canal at Ardclough, in Co Kildare. They pulled it out and partially opened it.

“They saw what they thought was plastic wrapped around what looked like flesh and a red-like substance,” said Mr Gillane.

Gardaí conducted a preliminary examination and confirmed that the plastic contained a human torso.

As Mr O’Brien had been reported missing that same day, a line of inquiry was pursued and a DNA sample confirmed that the torso was his.

Over the following week, a chainsaw without its chain was discovered in the canal, as were Mr O’Brien’s limbs and skull, which were found in three Tesco shopping bags weighed down by bricks. His hands were never recovered.

Cause of death

The cause of death was found to be a gunshot wound to the left side of the back of the head.

“Amputation of the head and limbs occured in a manner consistent with the use of a high-speed, mechanical saw,” said Mr Gillane.

The accused was arrested a few days later and his home searched.

“The prosecution case is that Kenneth O’Brien was killed at that address by Paul Wells snr, shot, murdered there, his body dismembered there,” said the prosecutor.

Mr Gillane also said that Mr O’Brien had been sending money back to Ireland into an account owned by the accused through a currency exchange system.

Mr Wells told gardaí that the deceased had wanted to return to Australia and had wanted the accused to murder Ms Dunne. However, he said he had not wanted to do this.

He said that he had not kept an arrangement to meet Mr O’Brien on January 15th. He said it had been to arrange the transfer of a gun.

However, he said that the deceased arrived at his home at 5pm on that date and returned to the topic of killing Ms Dunne. He said that Mr O’Brien showed him a gun, that they went to the back of the house, had a fight, and that the gun fell to the ground.

Mr Wells said that the deceased was reaching for the gun, but that he got to it first and fired it a number of times and that this was how Mr O’Brien had died. He said that he then panicked and dismembered the remains.

The trial continues on Wednesday afternoon before Judge Paul McDermott and a jury of six women and six men.