Man accused of killing dissident claimed he was feeding pony at time

Two on trial over fatal shooting of man outside Huntsman Inn

A man accused of the murder of dissident republican Peter Butterly told gardaí he was feeding a pony at the time of the shooting, the Special Criminal Court heard on Tuesday.

Butterly (35) was shot dead outside The Huntsman Inn, Gormanston, Co Meath on March 6th, 2013.

Two Dublin men are charged with his murder. Edward McGrath (35), of Land Dale Lawns, Springfield, Tallaght, and Sharif Kelly (47), of Pinewood Green Road, Balbriggan, have both pleaded not guilty to the murder.

Mr McGrath has also pleaded not guilty to firearms offences on the same occasion.

READ MORE

A third accused, Dean Evans (24), of Grange Park Rise, Raheny, Dublin, failed to turn up for the trial, and has not been located by gardaí. The non-jury court decided to proceed with his two co-accused in Mr Evans's absence.

It is the second trial of Mr McGrath and Mr Kelly. The original trial collapsed after 55 days in January, 2015, and a retrial was ordered.

Det Garda Shane Dervan told prosecuting counsel Alex Owens SC, that he interviewed Mr Kelly on the day after the shooting.

Gardaí showed the accused man a Beretta pistol found almost a kilometre from the scene, the court heard, and Mr Kelly said he did not recognise the gun.

He said he had no relationship with Mr Evans or Mr McGrath.

When asked if the shooting was an IRA operation, he said, “I haven’t a clue”.

The court has previously heard evidence that minutes after the shooting, and 1½kms away, on Flemington Road, Mr Kelly was arrested in a green Opel Zafira.

Gardaí asked Mr Kelly why he was on Flemington Road that afternoon, and the accused said he had been feeding his daughter's pony, which was being kept in a stable on Tobersool Lane, off Flemington Road.

This was about 1:45pm or 1:50pm, Mr Kelly said.

The court also heard detectives told Mr Kelly that on the day before the shooting, his car, a green Opel Zafira, was seen on Brackenwood Avenue, Balbriggan, and that another car, a silver Toyota Corolla, was also there.

Previously, the court has heard evidence that a silver Toyota Corolla was involved in the shooting.

The detectives said to Mr Kelly, “The two vehicles are present in Brackenwood Avenue on March 5th and again in Gormanston after the murder of Peter Butterly. This is damning for you, do you agree?”

Mr Kelly disagreed, the court heard.

The court also heard evidence from Ciaran Evans, former landlord of David Cullen, who was also originally accused of murdering Butterly but in the first trial gave evidence for the prosecution.

Mr Evans told the court that he started renting to Cullen in 2011 but that the tenant fell behind in his payments.

In March, 2013, the court heard, Cullen called Mr Evans from Portlaoise prison and said he had been arrested on murder and firearms charges.

“I didn’t really believe him,” Mr Evans told the court.

Cullen owed his landlord between €1,800 and €1,900 in rent arrears, the court heard.

Mr Evans said that a few days later he went with his wife to the apartment. Cullen’s clothes and bags of rubbish were still there, he said.

He told Mr Owens that there was a sock in a pair of jeans. He said that he opened the sock, looked inside and “seen what looked like bullets”.

Mr Evans told the court that he put the sock back in the jeans and said to his wife they should leave. They were “panicking”, he said, adding that he called a detective but did not mention the bullets.

“Why?” Mr Owens asked.

“Fear,” Mr Evans said. “It had nothing got to do with me.”

The following weekend, he said, he went back to the house, and everything except the rubbish had been cleared out.

In cross-examination, David Staunton, for Mr Kelly, said Cullen had made an allegation that Mr Evans had said to Cullen's father he had taken the bullets from the apartment.

“Completely untrue,” Mr Evans said.

Mr Staunton said Cullen had alleged Mr Evans had the bullets as “some kind of leverage over” the rent he was owed.

The landlord said this was “not true”.

The court heard that over two months later gardaí searched Mr Evans’s house on the basis of what Cullen had alleged about the bullets.

Mr Evans said that he was “absolutely shellshocked for something like that to happen to my house”.

He added, “I had done nothing wrong.”

The court heard gardaí found nothing during the search.

The trial continues with Mr Justice Tony Hunt presiding.