‘Ha ha ha’ text on IRA suspect arrest sent to woman before husband shot dead – court

Man charged in connection with the killing of dissident republican Peter Butterly

Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

 

A man charged in connection with the killing of dissident republican Peter Butterly sent a text to Mr Butterly’s wife’s phone joking about the arrest of an IRA suspect minutes before her husband was shot dead, a trial has heard.

Mr Butterly, a 35-year-old father of two, was shot dead shortly after 2pm in the car park of the Huntsman Inn at Gormanston, Co Meath on March 6th, 2013.

He died from gun shot wounds to his neck and upper back.

Laurence Murphy (62), of McDonough Caravan Park, Triton Road, Bettystown, Co Meath and Ray Kennedy (39), with an address at Whitestown Drive, Blanchardstown, Dublin 15, have pleaded not guilty to membership of an unlawful organisation, styling itself the Irish Republican Army, otherwise Oglaigh Na hÉireann, otherwise the IRA on March 6th, 2013.

Mr Kennedy is also charged with carrying out an act intending to pervert the course of justice by destroying a mobile telephone SIM card, which was in his possession on March 6th, 2013 in the State.

On Friday, Det Garda Shane Curran gave evidence about analysis he carried out on a number of phones, including one which the court heard was belonging to Mr Kennedy.

He told the Special Criminal Court that a text was sent from Mr Kennedy’s phone to Eithne Butterly’s phone at 1.43pm on March 6th, 2013, which said: “Seen on the news IRA man arrested in Italy with links to mafia. I wonder did Hoppy have anything to do with that as well. Ha, ha, ha.”

Det Gda Curran told Anne-Marie Lawlor SC, for the State, that the phone did not have a SIM card so he was only able to examine the physical handset.

Det Garda Kevin Keane also gave evidence on Friday about a search that took place at Brackenwood Avenue in Balbriggan on March 7th, 2013, during which a blue Nokia phone was found in the kitchen.

Opening the prosecution’s case against Mr Murphy and Mr Kennedy, Paul O’Higgins SC, told the three-judge court that Mr Butterly was shot in the carpark of The Huntsman Inn in Gormanston, Co Meath shortly after 2pm on March 6th, 2013.

Mr O’Higgins said it was a “meticulously planned killing” which had a “number of moving parts” and the plan had been in operation for a considerable period of time.

Four men – Kevin Braney (44), of Glenshane Crescent, Tallaght, Dublin 24; Edward McGrath (37), of Land Dale Lawns, Springfield, Tallaght; Sharif Kelly (49), of Pinewood Green Road, Balbriggan and Dean Evans (27), of Grange Park Rise, Raheny, Dublin – have all already received life sentences at the Special Criminal Court following convictions for Mr Butterly’s murder.

Two other men, Michael McDermott (60), of Riverdale House, Garrymore, Ballinagh, Co Cavan and Frank Murphy (59), of McDonagh Caravan Park, Triton Road, Bettystown, Co Meath, who played roles in the murder of Mr Butterly have also been jailed.

The court heard that Frank Murphy is a brother of accused man Laurence Murphy.

In relation to the evidence against Ray Kennedy, Mr O’Higgins said the accused drove into the Huntsman Inn shortly after the shooting took place on March 6th and had a conversation with gardaí.

It is the prosecution’s case that Mr Kennedy became aware when he arrived at the Huntsman Inn that Mr Butterly, who he said was his friend, had been shot.

Mr O’Higgins said Mr Kennedy became of interest to gardaí at the scene and was arrested for IRA membership.

Mr O’Higgins said it is the prosecution’s case that when Mr Kennedy discovered that his friend was dead, his reaction was to destroy a SIM card which may have contained evidence.

The trial will continue on Monday before Ms Justice Tara Burns, presiding alongside Judge Sarah Berkeley and Judge Michael Walsh.