Kenneth O’Brien murder: Paul Wells jnr jailed for role in crime
Sentence of 18 months for impeding prosecution of father and disposing of chainsaw
The court also heard that Paul Wells jnr had a ‘difficult history’ for the previous 15 years with his father. File photograph: Collins Courts
A man who disposed of the chainsaw used to dismember the body of Kenneth O’Brien has been jailed for 18 months for impeding the prosecution of his father, who carried out the murder and dumped the victim’s body parts in the Grand Canal.
Sentencing judge Ms Justice Carmel Stewart said on Monday that the “brutal manner” in which Mr O’Brien’s body was dismembered and disposed of “defies belief”.
The judge said that it had been previously urged upon the Central Criminal Court to suspend the sentence in full due to the defendant’s family background but she did not think this would mark the gravity of the offence.
The judge also asked that prison authorities take into account the threat relayed by Paul Wells snr to his son Paul Wells jnr. The court has heard that Wells snr has made threats from prison on the defendant’s life.
Paul Wells jnr (33) was found guilty last November of disposing of a blood-stained chainsaw used to dismember O’Brien’s body.
His father, Paul Wells snr (51), of Barnamore Park, Finglas in Dublin 11, was jailed for life in 2018 having been found guilty of murdering O’Brien at his home in Finglas on January 15th or 16th, 2016. Wells snr admitted that, after shooting the 33-year-old father in his back garden, he had dismembered his body and dumped it in a suitcase in the Grand Canal.
Wells jnr, with an address at Beatty Park, Celbridge, Co Kildare, had denied disposing of the chainsaw motor between January 19th and 20th, 2016, in Co Kildare. He had also pleaded not guilty to disposing of a chainsaw blade and chain on January 20th, 2016 in the same location.
It was the prosecution’s case that the defendant impeded the apprehension or prosecution of his father knowing that Wells snr had taken a life.
At his sentence hearing last week, Wells jnr’s barrister asked the judge for a fully suspended sentence and said that a term of imprisonment should be the last resort.
Defence barrister Damien Colgan SC told the judge that his client was not involved in the murder, had no previous convictions, was exposed to violence from an early age and greatly assisted gardaí with the investigation.
The court also heard that Wells jnr had a “difficult history” for the previous 15 years with his father and a credible threat had been placed upon his life by his father.
The trial heard that Wells jnr accepted more than €11,000 in cash from his father but disputed it was payment to get rid of the chainsaw. Prior to sentence being handed down this morning, Mr Colgan told the court that his client had “no interest” in the money given to him by his father. Prosecuting counsel Michael Bowman SC later confirmed to the court that “no claim” was being made for the money.
Passing sentence, the judge said the “brutal” murder was compounded by the disposal of his body and the “savage actions” of Wells snr. The judge said Wells jnr had initially attended Leixlip Garda station and given a voluntary statement to gardaí. Following his arrest, the defendant took part in 15 interviews which greatly assisted in the prosecution of his father, she said.
She said Gary Wells had delivered the chainsaw been used to dismember the body to his brother, Paul Wells jnr, at the behest of their father.
The judge also noted that the defendant’s sister, Amy Wells, had apologised for her brother’s actions and the family in not coming forward sooner, as this had allowed Wells snr to evade prosecution for two weeks. The judge said this confirmed that there was knowledge within the Wells family of what had occurred for at least two weeks until Wells jnr came forward to gardaí on February 5th.
Referring to the victim impact statement read to the court by the deceased’s father, the judge said the O’Brien family’s grief was “unimaginable”. “The fact their son was brutally murdered is appalling in itself but the brutal manner in which his body was dismembered and disposed of defies belief,” she said.
Having regard to the gravity of the offence, the judge said the maximum sentence was 10 years in prison. A serious aggravating factor in the case was the fact that Wells jnr knew what had happened and had not come forward which resulted in Wells snr attending the deceased’s funeral as one of the mourners, she said.
The judge also noted that, after O’Brien had died, more than €11,000 was delivered by Gary Wells to his brother Wells jnr on behalf of their father. It was suggested the money was intended for Wells jnr’s mother in case anything happened to Wells snr, she said. She added that the court noted the money was put into a safe in the defendant’s bedroom and broken up into smaller amounts for the purpose of his upcoming marriage. “Ultimately, it is quite clear that the jury did not accept Wells jnr acted without reasonable excuse,” she remarked.
Wells jnr was not directly involved in the death of Mr O’Brien, explained the judge. She said the sentence was 4½ years and placed the offence in the middle range of gravity.
A mitigating factor in his sentence was that he had assisted gardaí with the investigation and on account of this the judge reduced the term to three years.
The judge said it had been urged upon the court that the sentence should be suspended in full because of Wells jnr’s family background and his current family situation. “I’ve given great consideration to that option but do not think it would mark the gravity of the offence,” she said.
Wells jnr was sentenced to three years in prison with the last 18 months suspended on condition he keeps the peace for that period of time.
Ms Justice Stewart extended her sympathies to the O’Brien family and asked that prison authorities take into account the threat relayed to Wells jnr from his father.
After the court had risen, a person from the body of the court shouted at the defendant that the sentence handed down by the judge was “an insult”.