Frederick "Freddie" Thompson has been found guilty of the murder of David Douglas by judges at the Special Criminal Court.
The 37-year-old, of Loreto Road, Maryland in Dublin, had pleaded not guilty to the murder of David Douglas on July 1st, 2016, on Bridgefoot Street in Dublin.
Wearing a white shirt, navy tie, navy trousers and blue and white runners, Thompson thumbed through a red Bible that he brought with him to court while Justice Tony Hunt, presiding with Judge Flann Brennan and Judge Gerard Griffin, spent more than 2½ hours reading through the evidence that lead to the guilty verdict. Thompson will appeal the court's decision.
Thompson regularly shook his head as Justice Hunt went over the evidence. When the court’s decision was given, he took up his Bible and quickly left through the door leading to the cell area, followed by prison officers and a garda. He returned less than an hour later without his Bible, now wearing a blue T-shirt and black shorts, to be sentenced to the mandatory term of life imprisonment, backdated to November 1st, 2016, when he first went into custody.
Justice Hunt sympathised with Mr Douglas’s family, particularly his daughter who witnessed the shooting. He said it was a terrible thing for anyone to see. He further commended the gardaí involved in the case, saying that the standard of the investigation into his “execution” was “second to none”.
Michael O’Higgins SC, for Thompson, said he would appeal the decision.
Outside court Detective Superintendent Paul Cleary said the family of Mr Douglas was satisfied with the verdict. He added that the investigation was ongoing.
During the trial the non-jury court heard that the 55-year-old victim was shot six times shortly after 4pm, as he took a meal break at the counter in his partner’s shop, Shoestown. A semi-automatic pistol with its serial number removed was found next to his head.
Justice Hunt said there was no doubt Mr Douglas was murdered and this was an execution involving intricate advanced planning and co-ordination. He pointed out that the prosecution did not suggest Thompson was the person who fired the shots, but that he was one of the people involved.
Specifically, Thompson had been driving a Ford Fiesta that was intricately involved in the murder plot. The Fiesta was seen interacting with other vehicles and individuals involved in the plot on the morning before the shooting. It also drove past Shoestown four minutes before the shooting, in what Justice Hunt said was a “final check” before the gunman arrived to carry out the planned execution.
‘Furtive and suspicious’
Justice Hunt said Thompson was then caught on CCTV acting in a “furtive and suspicious” manner on nearby Meath Street around the time of the shooting. He dismantled a mobile phone and was seen later that evening at a restaurant with two other men that the court said were involved in the murder plot.
The defence had argued that while Thompson’s activities were “suspicious”, the evidence relied on by the prosecution had fallen well short of proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. But Justice Hunt said that any innocent explanation of all these different strands of evidence would require “an excessive reliance on unlucky coincidence.”
He said the court also took into account Thompson’s failure to answer gardaí when they questioned him about his movements on the day.
He was referring to evidence on day nine of the trial when it emerged that Thompson made “no comment” to gardaí when asked to account for his being in the two alleged “spotter” cars on the day.
When told that the gardaí believed that his possession of a silver Ford Fiesta on the morning of the killing in the immediate vicinity of the Mercedes later used in the shooting might be attributable to his participation in the murder, he said: “No comment at this time.”
He gave the same answer when asked to account for his possession of the same car on Meath Street immediately prior to the murder.
He was then asked to account for his possession of the key to the Fiesta at that time. It was put to him that CCTV footage showed him giving the key to a named female on Meath Street. He again replied: “No comment at this time.”
He gave the same reply when asked to account for his possession of a mobile phone, which was broken up and disassembled by him on the same occasion.
He was also asked to account for his DNA being found on an air freshener and hand sanitiser in the Fiesta and again he replied: “No comment.”
He was questioned about being in a blue Mitsubishi Mirage at the entrance to a car park near St Stephen’s Green that evening and about his DNA being on an inhaler found in that car. He again replied: “No comment.”
He gave the same reply when asked about his fingerprint being found on the rearview mirror of each car and on a birthday card found in the Mitsubishi. Justice Hunt said that the prosecution had largely relied on circumstantial evidence, and that each individual piece was not in itself enough to prove guilt. However, taking all the pieces together, the court was satisfied that the prosecution had proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Thompson was guilty as charged.