Killer of rugby player Shane Geoghegan loses appeal

Barry Doyle (29) had claimed gardaí induced him into making admissions


A man jailed for life for the murder of innocent rugby player Shane Geoghegan in a case of mistaken identity has lost his appeal against conviction.

Barry Doyle (29), of Portland Row in Dublin 1, had pleaded not guilty to the murder of Mr Geoghegan in Limerick on November 9 2008.

He was found guilty by a jury at the Central Criminal Court and was given the mandatory life sentence by Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan on February 16th 2012.

The trial court heard that Doyle had admitted during Garda interviews that he shot Mr Geoghegan in a case of mistaken identity.

However, a principal ground of Doyle’s appeal against conviction in the Court of Appeal was that gardaí induced him into making these admissions.

Dismissing his bid on Monday President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice Seán Ryan said none of Doyle’s 27 grounds of appeal could succeed, his trial was “satisfactory” and his conviction “safe”.

In a written judgement, Mr Justice Ryan said it was Doyle’s solicitor who approached gardaí with an offer that Doyle would say he killed Shane Geoghegan if the gardaí agreed to release from custody Victoria Gunnery, Doyle’s girlfriend and the mother of his daughter.

It has to be assumed that the offer was made on Doyle’s instructions and clearly he had the benefit of legal advice, the judgment stated.

Doyle “knew what he was doing,” the judgment stated, and this refuted his argument based on inducement.

The interviews contained references to Doyle’s deceased brother, his family, Ms Gunnery, his children, his background and living circumstances in Limerick.

“Some of the garda comments are colloquial, to say the least, but there are no threats uttered. Neither is any explicit promise or inducement offered.”

Mr Justice Ryan said the gardaí endeavoured to get Doyle to engage with them. “They appealed to his sense of sympathy for the Geoghegan family. They actually appealed to his sense of morality."

“They suggested that he could not be proud of the situation in life to which he had sunk as they invited him to see it."

“By this they meant that he was eking out a lowlife existence at the beck and call of others” and living in “primitive” conditions “while going to bed at night wearing a bulletproof vest.”

“Not only had he descended to this level, as the gardaí put it to him, but he had brought Victoria Gunnery to the point where she was in custody as well as him."

The gardaí were not suggesting that they would release Ms Gunnery, the judgment stated, but that they were “addressing his better nature by inviting him to consider his personal descent into primitive living conditions and involvement in serious crime, bringing death to an innocent man and destruction to his family life”.

The gardaí were thus appealing to Doyle’s “essential humanity” rather than negotiating to broker a deal, the judgment stated.

Doyle’s offer of his rosary beads to Shane Geoghegan’s mother could be “seen as a gesture of remorse and sympathy which is in keeping with the tone of interview that our analysis suggests,” it stated.

Supportive of this conclusion was the fact that Doyle’s admissions were limited to his own role and not that of other people. He furnished considerable detail on what “he himself had done” to the extent of drawing a map to show what happened and where.

If Doyle’s will and resistance had been broken down he would have revealed more information particularly concerning the role of others in the murder, Mr Justice Ryan stated.

“The fact that he controlled the flow of admissions and restricted them to himself suggests a capacity for calculation and judgement on his part that is inconsistent with the proposition that his will was overborne”.

The inducement theory also failed because he did not demand confirmation that Ms Gunnery had been released following his admissions.

The Court of Appeal held that the trial judge was entitled to find that the admissions made by the appellant were not brought about by any inducement or threat, Mr Justice Ryan said.

None of his other grounds of appeal involving material furnished to the jury, correctness of the judge’s charge and the telephone records of a prosecution witness, April Collins, could succeed according to the judgment.

Accordingly, Mr Justice Ryan, who sat with Mr Justice George Birmingham and Mr Justice John Edwards, dismissed the appeal.

Doyle was returned to prison where he will serve out the remainder of his life sentence.