Defective walkie-talkie batteries caused fire that destroyed suspect van, Lunney case told

Prosecution alleges someone who had been in contact with Kevin Lunney transferred the blood to the van

  Kevin Lunney. File photograph: BBC Spotlight

Kevin Lunney. File photograph: BBC Spotlight

 

Defective walkie-talkie batteries caused a fire that destroyed a van allegedly used in the abduction and assault of Quinn Industrial Holdings director Kevin Lunney, the Special Criminal Court has heard.

Detective Sergeant Jim McDevitt of Cavan Garda Station on Monday told the three-judge, non-jury court that an insurance assessor found that the batteries were “prone to overheating”.

The trial has previously heard that DNA matching Mr Lunney’s was swabbed from areas of suspected blood staining inside the van. DNA matching one of the accused men, Darren Redmond, was found on a bar behind the front seats. The prosecution does not allege that Mr Lunney was in the van but that someone who had been in contact with Mr Lunney transferred the blood to the van.

Det Sgt McDevitt confirmed that gardaí moved the Renault Kangoo from the forensic vehicle examination centre in Santry, Dublin to Ted Brennan’s yard in Cavan where a fire broke out in February 2020. Following the fire Sgt McDevitt was initially told the Kangoo was undamaged and told the defence it was still available for inspection on February 25th. Three days later, however, he learned that it had been destroyed.

He told defence counsel Michael O’Higgins SC, for the accused known as YZ, that the van was moved from Santry because the normal procedure is that once examined, vehicles are kept in the region close to the investigation. The sergeant also confirmed that gardai had received letters from lawyers working for the accused in January and February 2020 seeking information relating to the Kangoo, including its whereabouts.

Sgt McDevitt told Giollaiosa O’Lideadha SC, for the accused man Alan O’Brien, that gardai are satisfied the fire was caused by batteries that were charging overnight in an office attached to the vehicle storage yard.

The scene was examined by gardai and by an insurance assessor who is an expert on fire damage, the witness said. The insurance assessor purchased eight or nine of the same type of walkie-talkies on website e-Bay and found the same defect in all of them. “They were prone to overheating,” he said.

A 40-year-old man named as YZ because he can’t be identified for legal reasons, Alan O’Brien (40), of Shelmalier Road, East Wall, Dublin 3, Darren Redmond (27), from Caledon Road, East Wall, Dublin 3 and Luke O’Reilly (68), with an address at Mullahoran Lower, Kilcogy, Co Cavan have all pleaded not guilty to false imprisonment and intentionally causing serious harm to Mr Lunney at Drumbrade, Ballinagh, Co Cavan on September 17, 2019.

Mr Lunney has told the court that he was bundled into the boot of a car near his home and driven to a container where he was threatened and told to resign as a director of Quinn Industrial Holdings. His abductors cut him with a Stanley knife, stripped him to his boxer shorts, doused him in bleach, broke his leg with two blows of a wooden bat, beat him on the ground, cut his face and scored the letters QIH into his chest. They left him bloodied, beaten and shivering on a country road at Drumcoghill in Co Cavan where he was discovered by a man driving a tractor.

The trial has previously heard from the previous owner of an Audi A4 that the prosecution alleges was used by Mr Lunney’s attackers to take him from his home to Cavan. Sgt McDevitt today told Mr O’Lideadha that the Audi owner said he would be able to identify the two men who bought the Audi from him. Gardai organised an identity parade with seven men including Mr O’Lideadha’s client Alan O’Brien. The Audi owner did not identify anyone as the buyer, Sgt McDevitt said.

Sgt McDevitt agreed with Michael Lynn SC that his client Luke O’Reilly’s 68th birthday is today and he has no previous convictions. He also agreed that Mr O’Reilly had purchased a Mitsubishi Canter lorry by internet auction for £1,462 (€1,700) from an English firm on September3rd 2019. The lorry was delivered to Cyril McGuinness’s yard in Derbyshire. Mr McGuinness is now deceased and the prosecution alleges he organised Mr Lunney’s abduction. The trial has previously heard that Mr O’Reilly told gardai during interviews that he was in phone contact with McGuinness in September 2019 in relation to importing a lorry from England.

The sergeant agreed with Michael Bowman SC that his client, Darren Redmond, had received €25,000 in August 2019 from a civil litigation. He said this tallied with a lodgement made to Mr Redmond’s AIB account around that time. Det Sgt McDevitt also confirmed that Mr Redmond is a friend of the accused man known as YZ and would often be seen in his company. He also confirmed that garda surveillance spotted the Renault Kangoo on multiple occasions around the East Wall area of Dublin, where Mr Redmond lives, on various dates in 2019 after Mr Lunney’s abduction.

Sean Guerin SC for the Director of Public Prosecutions said today that he expects to complete the prosecution’s evidence tomorrow and begin closing speeches on Wednesday. Mr Justice Tony Hunt is presiding with Judge Gerard Griffin and Judge David McHugh.