Kenneth O’Brien in ‘good form’ day before remains found in canal, court told

Trial hears from Virgin Media worker who was one of the last people to see Dublin man alive

One of the last people to see Kenneth O’Brien alive was a Virgin Media worker, who was installing services in the deceased man’s home.

One of the last people to see Kenneth O’Brien alive was a Virgin Media worker, who was installing services in the deceased man’s home.


A Dublin father-of-one was in good form the day before his remains were found in a suitcase floating in the Grand Canal, a murder trial has heard.

One of the last people to see Kenneth O’Brien alive was a Virgin Media worker, who was installing services in the deceased man’s home.

He was giving evidence to the Central Criminal Court on Thursday morning in the trial of 50-year-old Paul Wells Senior, of Barnamore Park, Finglas, Dublin, who is charged with murdering Mr O’Brien at the accused man’s home.

Mr Wells has admitted shooting him dead and dismembering his body. However, he has pleaded not guilty to murdering the 33-year-old on January 15th or 16th 2016. He told gardaí the deceased had wanted him to murder Mr O’Brien’s partner.

Patrick Holligan testified he arrived at Mr O’Brien’s house in Clondalkin at 10am on Friday 15th January. Mr O’Brien was the sole occupant of the house and nobody else called to the house in the hour he was there.

“I recall maybe a couple of text messages at the time, but not speaking,” he said, when asked if Mr O’Brien had spoken to anyone on the phone.

Under cross-examination by Michael O’Higgins SC, defending, he agreed that he had engaged in chit chat with Mr O’Brien, whom he had never met before.

“He said he’d been away in Australia, ” he recalled. “He wasn’t overly looking for work for the next few months as he had made some money in Australia.”

He said that Mr O’Brien had been in good form.

Mr O’Higgins asked him about telling the gardaí that he didn’t think Mr O’Brien was too happy about being back.

“If that’s what I said, then yeah,” he replied. “I remember saying that, but I can’t remember feeling that.”

The jury then spent much of the morning watching Mr Wells’ movements on CCTV footage.

Garda Shona Nolan talked the jury through the footage, which showed Mr Wells driving in the direction of Ardclough, Co Kildare about 6am the following day. The jury has already heard from a couple, who found Mr O’Brien’s torso in the canal there that afternoon

The trial continues on Thursday afternoon before Mr Justice Paul McDermott and a jury of six women and six men.

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 occurred 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.