Police did not search yard where man accused of garda murder said he had been
Court also told one million pages of materials were generated in investigation into murder of Det Gda Adrian Donohoe
Aaron Brady (29) from New Road, Crossmaglen, Co Armagh has pleaded not guilty to the capital murder of Det Gda Donohoe (41). File photograph: Collins
A senior garda investigating the murder of Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe has said he doesn’t know why police in Northern Ireland didn’t search a yard where the man accused of his murder said he was laundering diesel on the evening of the shooting.
Detective Inspector Mark Phillips of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation also told prosecution counsel Brendan Grehan SC that the accused man Aaron Brady was deported to Ireland from America in 2017 having pleaded guilty to criminal damage, unlawful taking of a vehicle and dangerous driving five years earlier.
Mr Brady (29) from New Road, Crossmaglen, Co Armagh has pleaded not guilty to the capital murder of Det Gda Donohoe (41) who was then a member of An Garda Síochána on active duty shortly before 9.30pm on January 25, 2013 at Lordship Credit Union, Bellurgan, Co Louth.
The defendant has also pleaded not guilty to a charge of robbing approximately €7,000 in cash and assorted cheques on the same date and at the same location.
Defence counsel Michael O’Higgins questioned Insp Phillips over several hours about the fact that gardaí did not ask police in Northern Ireland to search a yard on Concession Road in Armagh where Mr Brady said he was loading cubes of “diesel waste” on the evening when Det Gda Donohoe was shot dead.
Inspector Phillips said: “I can’t say why it wasn’t searched but that was a decision taken by the senior investigating officer.”
He said that nothing Mr Brady told gardaí was deemed “trivial” but at the time, in February 2013, Mr Brady was a witness in the case and not a suspect. He said he didn’t know if the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) was ever alerted to the possibility that there was a diesel laundering operation at the site, and he said that would be a matter for the district office in Dundalk.
Inspector Phillips told Mr Grehan for the prosecution that he didn’t investigate the site further because in 2013 Mr Brady said he was at the yard for ten to 15 minutes some time between 8pm and 9pm. From 9pm to 10.30pm, which covers the time of the robbery and fatal shooting, he put himself in an area known as Lough Road. He said gardaí tried to corroborate this story and were told by three other people that Mr Brady was at Lough Road at that time.
He said the first time he was aware that Mr Brady had said he was at the yard at the time of the murder was in September 2019. He added that in December 2019 Mr Brady supplied information for the first time about what he was doing there.
Insp Phillips also told Mr Grehan that he was in Dundalk to investigate the robbery and murder of Det Garda Adrian Donohoe at Lordship and was not there to investigate diesel laundering.
‘Investigation is ongoing’
The jury also heard that one million pages of materials were generated in the investigation into Det Gda Donohoe’s murder. Insp Phillips agreed with Mr Grehan that there were 40,000 hours of CCTV footage, 6,000 jobs in 36 jobs’ books, more than 3,000 statements and thousands of garda reports.
He further agreed with Mr O’Higgins that about 215 new witness statements have been furnished to the defence as notices of additional evidence in the months leading up to the trial. Having gone through the dates of each notice of additional evidence Mr O’Higgins said that he wanted the jury to “get the full picture” in a situation where the defence’s behaviour is “going to be put under scrutiny”.
Mr O’Higgins also pointed out that in a normal trial before the Central Criminal Court there would be one solicitor, one senior counsel and one junior counsel each for the defence and prosecution but in this trial there are two state solicitors for the prosecution, one solicitor for the defence and both sides have two seniors, two juniors and a documentary junior.
In follow-up questions from Mr Grehan Insp Phillips agreed that in an investigation “every ‘i’ must be dotted and every ‘t’ crossed” and that new witnesses can come forward. The witness further agreed that the investigation is ongoing “notwithstanding the fact Mr Brady is the only person on trial.”
Detective Sergeant Michael Sheridan told Lorcan Staines SC for the prosecution that he obtained a search warrant for a house belonging to the parents of a man the prosecution has said was involved in the robbery. The warrant was executed on March 13, 2013. Sergeant David O’Leary said he was part of the search team and he identified a walkie talkie that was found and photographed during the search.
The trial continues in front of Mr Justice Michael White and a jury of eight men and seven women.