Widow tells Tralee court her husband ‘always’ wore his yellow cycling jacket

Man (22) accused of dangerous driving causing the death of cyclist in Kerry

Shane Fitzgerald (22) of Newmarket, Co Cork,  who has pleaded not guilty to the charge of dangerous driving causing the death of Paudie O’Leary (42) on July 1st, 2012

Shane Fitzgerald (22) of Newmarket, Co Cork, who has pleaded not guilty to the charge of dangerous driving causing the death of Paudie O’Leary (42) on July 1st, 2012

 

The widow of a long-distance cyclist whose body was found in a ditch behind a hedgerow on the Gneeveguilla to Killarney road has told the Circuit Criminal Court in Tralee how her husband “always” wore his yellow cycling jacket.

Margaret O’Leary was giving evidence on the second day of the trial of a 22-year-old man accused of dangerous driving causing the death of her husband Paudie O’Leary, who was training for the 112-mile annual Ring of Kerry charity cycle. The couple had four children, two teenage girls and and two young boys.

Ms O’Leary said that on the morning of July 1st, 2012, she woke at 8am and her husband had already left. He would regularly set out at 5am or even earlier, and had told her the previous day he would be cycling on Sunday.

The previous evening he had put their second daughter Antoinette, who has Down syndrome, to bed. “He had a special relationship with Antoinette,” Ms O’Leary told Tom Rice, prosecuting.

It would have been “regular” that he would go out very early cycling she also said. She got up at 9am and went to mass with her daughter Shannon. She was “not overly worried” at that hour as he could have been up at the farm or “doing anything.”

However, when he did not return to take their sons to football training, she phoned gardaí in Killarney to see if an ambulance had been called or if there had been an accident.

Mr O’Leary was part of a large family and a search got underway. At 1.15 pm, she was in the kitchen of their home at Gneeveguilla when the phonecall came through from her sister-in-law to Aeneas, Mr O’Leary’s brother. “All I could hear is that he was dead,” Ms O’Leary said, breaking down.

Jerry O’Callaghan, who is married to the late Mr O’Leary’s sister Máiréad, gave evidence of seeing debris on the road at around 1.15 pm as he searched and of seeing the cyclist’s bag “sitting on the hedge – on top of the hedge.”

This was a double hedge, above his eyeline. He proceeded towards the bag and saw it had a black cap and a mobile phone. At that juncture the phone began to ring. “I knew at that stage that Paudie O’leary was at the scene. I knew this was his bag. This was his phone and I said to my wife, ‘Paud is here’.”

Looking through the hedge he saw the cyclist on the raised area of the ditch at the back of the hedge and his bicycle was on top of him. He had to create a gap in the hedge to get to him. He checked for a pulse, but there was none, Mr O’Callaghan said.

On Monday, at around 7pm, when the body was being brought home to be waked from Kerry General Hospital after autopsy, Mr O’Callaghan was travelling in the first car directly behind the hearse. They travelled from the Castleisland, not the Killarney, direction.

As it drew up near a bridge, alongside the O’Leary home, the hearse paused briefly and Mr O’Callaghan “saw something” on his left. It was a bumper on top of the hedge, about a metre off the ground. Council workers had been told to clip back the hedge that day in preparation for the funeral.

Back at the house, after prayers and a conversation, he phoned gardaí and sent a man who had not been drinking to protect the piece of bumper. A section of dark grey bumper has already been shown to the jury.

Shane Fitzgerald (22) of Knockeen, Knockduff, Meelin, Newmarket, Co Cork , has pleaded not guilty to the charge of dangerous driving causing the death of Paudie O’Leary (42), at Scrahanfadda, Gneeveguilla on July 1st, 2012.

The prosecution claim he was driving a dark grey Land Cruiser on the date and that he had left Killarney at 5am after socialising until the early hours. They allege his vehicle hit Mr O’Leary and that he left the scene. The vehicle has never been found.

The trial in front of a jury of 11 and presided over by Judge Thomas E O’Donnell continues. It is expected to run for three weeks.