Mixed views about conviction of Aaron Brady in his old New York stomping ground

Brady moved to New York after killing Garda Adrian Donohoe, but was deported back

Aaron Brady was convicted of the capital murder of Det Garda Adrian Donohoe. Photograph: Collins

Aaron Brady was convicted of the capital murder of Det Garda Adrian Donohoe. Photograph: Collins

 

Woodlawn Heights is at the most northerly point of New York City; an odd-shaped jumble of streets bordered by a park and the Bronx river, and just a stroll away from Yonkers. Through its centre runs Katonah Avenue; the nexus of nightlife and most of the locale’s businesses.

Against a backdrop of both the US and Irish flags, a mural just off the main avenue reads: “Welcome to Woodlawn.” This is a tight-knit community with a high concentration of Irish people; a smattering of pubs, and shops and delis where Tayto crisps and bottles of Chef brown sauce can be found – unlike most of the rest of the city – in abundance.

But it is now inextricably linked to a bitter and stormy night across the Atlantic in January 2013, when Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe was shot dead during a robbery at the Lordship Credit Union in Bellurgan, Co Louth. His killer, Crossmaglen man Aaron Brady, was on Wednesday convicted of capital murder after having also been found guilty of involvement in the robbery two days before.

After he got arrested, people would say ‘oh, was that the garda guy’...there was a little bit of a buzz around it. And then people would say that he seemed like he was a bit of a fool

Brady ended up settling in New York just three months after the murder and it was here, in this little enclave, that his inability to keep quiet about his role in the killing ultimately became his own undoing at trial. Brady was deported by Homeland Security for overstaying his visa in 2017, leaving behind a wife and baby.

Now, depending on who you talk to, he’s either a “clown,” an innocent man, or someone who should hang for his crime.

Key testimony for the prosecution in his trial was provided by Daniel Cahill, a former barman at what was once known as the Coachman’s Inn, of the three times he heard Brady confess to the murder. Fellow prosecution witness Molly Staunton also told the court of hearing Brady talk about his guilt of having murdered the garda.

As a result, up and down this nine-block avenue, Brady’s profile grew. But for all his perceived notoriety and bluster, getting people to talk about him is a challenge. The advice of some of the bar staff who work along this street is that people simply do not want to. One pub owner, a local of over 40 years, had never heard of the man; a patron at another bar said he only heard of Brady on a visit home to Ireland.

On Friday night, the pavements outside the pubs of Katonah Avenue, which Brady frequented before his arrest, were bustling as New York creaked back to life amid looser restrictions from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Irish-American Dennis O’Connor, enjoying a sunset drink outside the Just One Tavern, only heard of Brady for the first time following his arrest in 2017. But he said he followed snippets and updates about the trial every few days as it unfolded, and over the past week would check the news to see the outcome.

So many of the other people alleged to have been privy to Brady’s confessions never testified. They are, it has been reported, "terrified"

“That’s what I heard; that he was a bit of a clown,” he said of Brady’s foolhardiness in blurting out what he had done to people in the area. “After he got arrested, people would say ‘oh, was that the garda guy’...there was a little bit of a buzz around it. And then people would say that he seemed like he was a bit of a fool.”

But then there are those for whom Wednesday’s conviction was a miscarriage of justice. Outside Behan’s Public House, when asked about the case, one patron simply said: “Aaron Brady is innocent.”

“He knows; he’s clued in,” said another. When pressed on this, the conversation was swiftly shut down by a third man, who sternly said there would be no comment.

It’s that kind of atmosphere that makes it easier to understand why so many of the other people alleged to have been privy to Brady’s confessions never testified. They are, it has been reported, ”terrified”.

Reached by telephone on Thursday, Daniel Cahill declined to be interviewed.

Up at The Avenue bar, however, Brady is again referred to as a “clown” by one patron who says he had “the displeasure of sharing a taxi with him” once years ago.

He insists that Brady is not emblematic of the neighbourhood.

“Put it this way; we’re all happy with the verdict,” he said. “We’re all good people here. Nobody was supporting this animal here.”