Man guilty for disposing of chainsaw which dismembered Kenneth O’Brien
Paul Wells Junior (33) found guilty of impeding prosecution of father
Paul Wells Jnr maintained throughout his interviews that he did not try to hinder the investigation and was afraid his father would shoot him. Photograph: Collins Courts
A man who disposed of the chainsaw used to dismember the body of Kenneth O’Brien has been found guilty of impeding the prosecution of his father, who carried out the murder and dumped the victim’s body parts in the Grand Canal.
Paul Wells Junior (33) was charged with impeding the apprehension or prosecution of his father Paul Wells Senior (51) by disposing of a blood-stained chainsaw, which the Central Criminal Court heard had a piece of “brown meat” embedded in its motor. It was the prosecution’s case that the defendant did so knowing that his father had taken a life.
The father-of-three told gardaí in his interviews that he did not know the STIHL chainsaw had been used to dismember Mr O’Brien’s body and insisted he was just “putting the jigsaw together” when he threw the motor into the Royal Canal in Maynooth, Co Kildare.
Wells Jnr maintained throughout his interviews that he did not try to hinder the investigation and was afraid his father, who he described as a “glorified criminal”, would shoot him.
The three-week trial heard that Wells Snr was a “very violent” man who in the past had tried to get the defendant to carry explosives and join the IRA. The killer also made threats from prison on the defendant’s life and said if he did not put a bullet in his own son, “the IRA would”.
Wells Jnr also confirmed to gardaí in his interviews that his father drove him to the canal in Sallins on the night of January 16th 2016. The accused said he heard four splashes after the killer threw several bags into the water.
Furthermore, Wells Jnr told the authorities that his father informed him the body of a west Dublin man had been found on January 19th. Gardaí gave evidence in the trial that it was not publicly known where the deceased was from at this stage of the investigation.
The trial also heard that Wells Jnr went on his stag party to Latvia with his father, just days after Wells Snr had dismembered the victim’s body. The accused also accepted over €11,000 in cash from his father but disputed it was payment to get rid of the chainsaw.
Wells Jnr, with an address at Beatty Park, Celbridge, Co Kildare had pleaded not guilty to disposing of a chainsaw motor at a time unknown between January 19th and 20th, 2016 in Co Kildare and not guilty to disposing of a chainsaw blade and chain on January 20th, 2016 in the same location.
The jury of six men and six women spent three hours and 55 minutes deliberating before bringing in a unanimous verdict of guilty on both counts.
After the verdicts were delivered, Wells Jnr hung his head and sobbed in the dock.
Ms Justice Carmel Stewart thanked the jury for their attendance saying: “It has been a difficult and distressing trial and your attention to the matter is much appreciated.” She exempted them from jury service for ten years.
The judge directed a probation report and remanded Wells Jnr on continuing bail until February 10, when his sentence hearing will take place.
When the jury left the courtroom, Ms Justice Stewart said she wanted to extend her sympathies to the O’Brien family. The judge pointed out that the deceased’s family had to listen to the “harrowing” details of Mr O’Brien’s death again as this was the second trial they had sat through.
Wells Snr, of Barnamore Park, Finglas in Dublin 11 was jailed for life last year having been found guilty of murdering Mr O’Brien at his home in Finglas on January 15 or 16, 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.
The judge also extended her thanks to both legal teams, who she said had made efforts during the trial to minimise the trauma to the O’Brien family.
Prosecution counsel Michael Bowman SC said in his closing speech that the defendant knew what he did when he disposed of the chainsaw and fully understood the consequences of his actions.
Mr Bowman maintained the prosecution had proven that Wells Jnr disposed of the chainsaw, its motor and blade because he knew Wells Snr had used it to murder Mr O’Brien. The defence of reasonable excuse did not exist in the case, he submitted.
The barrister acknowledged that this was an emotive case which evoked one’s natural sympathies as it told a “harrowing tale of childhood trauma” and “an abuse of family relationships”. Nevertheless, he warned the jury that sympathy could not form part of their determination in the case.
In his closing address, defence counsel Damien Colgan SC said Wells Jnr committed “an act of stupidity” when he disposed of the chainsaw used to dismember Mr O’Brien’s body but he did not impede the investigation “in any shape”.
Mr Colgan asked the jury to consider the defence of reasonable excuse and emphasised that the defendant did not have the requisite knowledge at the time to know what his father had done.
He said Wells Jnr was physically assaulted by his father from a young age and had grown up in a volatile environment. His big fear was coming forward with the chainsaw as he harboured a genuine fear of what could happen to him, said Mr Colgan, adding that his fear continues to this day.
The partner of Kenneth O’Brien, Eimear Dunne, gave evidence during the three-week trial that she went to work on the morning of January 15 and had exchanged a series of text messages with her boyfriend throughout the morning.
Mr O’Brien had returned from working in Australia on December 17, 2015 as he was missing his family, Ms Dunne said, while his belongings were in the process of being shipped home to Ireland.
Ms Dunne testified that the last text message she received from Mr O’Brien was at 1.53pm that day and she later texted him on two occasions but got no reply.
The mother-of-one said she received a text message from another mobile number at 3.36am, purporting to be from her partner. The text message indicated that Mr O’Brien had lost his phone and was gone for a drink.
On the morning of January 16, Ms Dunne received another text message from the same number indicating that Mr O’Brien was heading to the ferry and moving abroad with someone else. The use of certain words caused her to believe that this text message had not come from her partner, she said.
Wells Snr arrived to Ms Dunne’s home later that day and informed her that Mr O’Brien had been involved with another woman in Australia and had “up and left”. Ms Dunne said she was taken aback by what Wells Snr told her and had dropped to her knees in shock.
The court heard evidence that, over an 18-month period while he was working in Australia, Mr O’Brien transferred €52,935 to Paul Wells Snr through CurrencyFair Ltd and direct bank transfer.
Bottles of bleach
Gary Wells, the younger brother of Wells Jnr, said his father was a “very violent” man who in the past had tried to get the defendant to carry explosives and join the IRA.
The witness said his father told him twice that he was not to come home to their Finglas home on January 15. When he returned to the house the following day, the witness testified that Wells Snr was wrapping up a power hose at the back of the house and had two bottles of bleach beside him on the deck.
Gary Wells testified that on January 17 his father gave him a chainsaw wrapped in a black bin liner and told him to bring it to the defendant’s house. The accused Paul Wells Jnr then put the device into the boot of his partner’s car, where it stayed for two days.
During the trial, the statements of two walkers, who had noticed something floating in the Grand Canal at Ardclough in Co Kildare on January 16, were read into the record by prosecution counsel Michael Bowman SC.
Mary Costigan said she and her boyfriend, Brian O’Dwyer, noticed a suitcase floating about a metre from the water’s edge. When she opened the suitcase, she could see plastic bags with some flesh inside, she said. Mr O’Dwyer described the body parts as looking like “a big slab of meat” in his statement and said he rang 999.
Niall McDermott testified that he was walking his dog at Pikes Bridge along the Royal Canal in Co Kildare on January 20, when he saw a chainsaw in the water. Following this, the Garda Sub-Aqua Unit used a rope to pull the chainsaw’s motor from the water.
The trial heard that gardaí found the remaining parts of Mr O’Brien’s body in several shopping bags elsewhere in the Grand Canal on January 24 and 25.
Detective Garda James Young said Wells Jnr made a voluntary statement to gardaí at Leixlip Garda Station on February 5, 2016 about disposing of a STIHL chainsaw as well as its chain and blade in two locations in Co Kildare on January 19 and 20. He was arrested the next day on suspicion of murdering Mr O’Brien with a firearm and conducted 14 interviews with gardaí over several days.
In his interviews, the accused told gardaí he was providing a voluntary statement because he couldn’t “take it in his head anymore” and said his father was “physical and fearful.”
Wells Jnr told gardaí he met his father in the carpark of Tesco in Celbridge on the evening of January 16 and they went for a drive to the canal in Sallins. The accused man said his father was on edge and he thought he was going to be shot. When Wells Snr pulled up at the canal, the accused said he heard four splashes after the killer threw several bags into the water.
The father-of-three told gardaí that he did not know the chainsaw had been used to dismember the victim’s body when he threw its motor into the Royal Canal at Carton House in Maynooth and insisted that he was just “putting the jigsaw together” at the time.
He also told gardaí that he disposed of the chainsaw blade and chain in The Curragh the following day. He said he placed the blade of the chainsaw in a pond and the chain on a bush so it could be seen.
Wells Jnr told gardaí in his interviews that he “genuinely didn’t try to hinder the investigation” and was afraid his father would shoot him so did not contact the authorities sooner.
The defendant also told gardai that the chainsaw he disposed of was blood-stained and had a piece of brown meat on it, which he said looked like dog-meat.
In another interview with gardaí, the accused said he called into the family home on January 19 and Wells Snr was muttering to himself: “I couldn’t do this. I couldn’t do this.” His father informed him that the body of a west Dublin man had been found.
In his evidence, Detective Sergeant Padraig Cleary confirmed it was not publicly known at this stage that the deceased was a man from west Dublin. The witness also confirmed that Wells Snr had made threats from prison on the defendant’s life and said if he did not put a bullet in his own son, “the IRA would”.
Wells Jnr went on his stag party to Latvia with his father on January 22 and he told gardaí he found it inappropriate when his father imitated the motions of a chainsaw one night. He asked Wells Snr on the trip if he had murdered Mr O’Brien and his father smirked, saying he was left with no choice.
Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis gave evidence that he carried out a post-mortem on the deceased and gave his cause of death as a gun shot wound to the head. It appeared the dismemberment of Mr O’Brien had been done with “a high-speed mechanical saw”, he said.