Spotter for ‘murder gang’ who gunned down Eamon Kelly gets life in prison

Darren Murphy (51) had pleaded not guilty to the charge

Darren Murphy (51) of  George’s Place, Dublin 1 has been sentenced to life in prison. Photograph: Collins Courts

Darren Murphy (51) of George’s Place, Dublin 1 has been sentenced to life in prison. Photograph: Collins Courts

 

The “spotter” for a “murder gang”, who gunned down veteran criminal Eamon Kelly as he walked to his home on Dublin’s northside almost nine years ago, has been sentenced to life in prison by the Special Criminal Court.

Father-of-nine Kelly was shot four times in the back by a gunman as he walked towards his home.

In November of last year, presiding judge Mr Justice Alexander Owens said the court found Darren Murphy (51) guilty of the murder of Kelly at Furry Park Road, Killester, Dublin 5, on December 4, 2012.

On Monday Mr Justice Owens imposed the mandatory life sentence on Murphy, backdating it for time already served in custody to November 1, 2021.

In her victim impact statement, Eamon Kelly’s daughter Alison told the court that her father’s murder was a “cowardly and senseless act” that inflicted a “devastating loss” on the Kelly family.

She said her father was a “true and loyal friend” to those who knew him and was “idolised” by his family. Ms Kelly said his passing had left an “immense void”.

She regularly passed the spot where her father was killed, and said it caused her “grief on a daily basis” and she was “not sure she could put the devastation into words”.

The three-judge court convicted Murphy, of George’s Place, Dublin 1, of his role as a “spotter” in murdering Kelly, to which he had pleaded not guilty. Murphy was found not guilty of possessing a Glock pistol with intent to endanger life on the same date and location due to “insufficient evidence”.

At that sitting the court said there was also “insufficient evidence” to establish that his co-accused Kenneth Donohoe was the driver of the getaway car - a Lexus , that he was in possession of a Glock handgun or that he had some direct role as part of the murder gang.

Mr Donohoe (43), of Hazelgrove, Tallaght, Dublin 24 had also pleaded not guilty to all charges relating to the murder of 65-year-old Kelly.

At Monday’s sitting of the court, Detective Garda Basil Grimes said that Murphy had six previous convictions for public order and road traffic matters, the earliest of which was recorded in 1991.

When passing judgement and referring to Murphy, the judge said the evidence established “beyond any room for any rational doubt” that he was one of the murder gang who went out to kill Kelly.

Murphy had acted as “spotter” and was involved in the murder as part of the common design of the murder gang, said Mr Justice Owens. “This involved him meeting with other members of the gang on the day of the murder. He acted in concert with them as the net closed in on Kelly and in coordination with them in the immediate aftermath of the shooting,” he added.

In judgement, Mr Justice Owens, sitting with Judge Sinéad Ní Chúlacháin and Judge Dermot Dempsey found Kelly was intercepted by the gunman near an alleyway which leads onto Furry Park Road from Dunluce Road in Clontarf.

“He was accustomed to walking from his home at Furry Park Road into Killester and he often visited a bookmaker’s on Dunseverick Road. A murder gang took advantage of this habit,” said the judge.

CCTV footage, he said, established that members of the gang were “scouting” in Killester in the afternoons of the days prior to the murder and on the day of the murder.

In 2015, Sean Connolly, then aged 35, of Bernard Curtis House, Bluebell, Dublin, was jailed for life by the Special Criminal Court for Kelly’s murder.

When passing judgement, Mr Justice Owens said two men were observed getting into a black Lexus on Furry Park Road and leaving in the car some minutes prior to the shooting. Immediately after the shooting the gunman departed at speed in the black Lexus and travelled south west on Howth Road in the direction of Fairview.

It was set on fire on Stiles Court in Clontarf and the two occupants of the car — the shooter and his getaway driver — fled on foot.

Mr Justice Owens said that the evidence established that Murphy was the driver of an Opel Meriva on the day of the murder and his role was to act as spotter or look-out in Killester and to assist by meeting the gunman — Connolly — and the driver of the getaway car and also to facilitate the escape, he said.

“It is beyond credible possibility that some doppelganger of Darren Murphy who looked exactly like him and was dressed in identical clothes .....was driving the turquoise Opel Meriva around the Killester area and getting out of it and walking around on Howth Road on the afternoon of the murder,” said the judge.

All of the pieces of evidence connecting Murphy to the murder, he said, when taken together “admit of only one credible explanation”. “This is that Darren Murphy was part of the common design to murder Eamon Kelly and that he acted in furtherance of that design on December 4, 2012 in a number of ways. He is as guilty of the murder of Eamon Kelly as the shooter, Sean Connolly,” he said.

The court found that the Opel Meriva car, which was taken from the communal car park outside Murphy’s flat complex, was used by Murphy in Killester on the afternoon of the murder as part of the coordinated murder plot. This car was also used on December 1 and 3, 2012 in “scouting operations” in Killester as part of planning for the murder.

Opening the case in June, Dominic McGinn SC, said the State’s case was that Connolly was the single gunman but various aspects of circumstantial evidence connected Murphy to the shooting.

The barrister had said that Murphy was connected to the green Opel Meriva car, which was in the vicinity prior to the shooting, being used as a “spotter” car.

Another category of circumstantial evidence were fingerprints and several of these were found in the green Opel Meriva, six of these belonged to Murphy he said.

Counsel said the crux of the case against Mr Murphy was that seven gardaí­ identified him from CCTV footage.