Lucan murder: Witness traumatised after seeing Reilly beaten, hacked and driven over
Jason was in debt to a drug dealer and it was causing trouble for the family, father told gardaí
Neil Reilly was beaten to death in Esker Glebe, in Lucan.
Sabrina Church stared in disbelief at the sawn-off shotgun propped against her garden wall, a few feet from where her children would usually play. “No, it’s not mine,” she told two gardaí who had minutes before called to her door.
Of course she had never seen it before. She was shocked, sickened, but there was anger too, anger that whoever put it there spared not a thought for her family, her young children.
It is an anger felt by many in the working and middle-class communities around Lucan whose lives are interrupted again and again by drug-fuelled feuds that flare up there from time to time.
That morning the community had awoken to hear that a man, later identified as Neil Reilly, had been beaten to death in nearby Esker Glebe in the early hours. “He had a terrible death,” locals were told.
Even hardened gardaí were shocked by the blood, the arm almost severed from the shoulder, the crushed and contorted body, the smashed skull. Within hours, the death was blamed on a drug feud, of some sort.
Dean Bradley (24) and Jason Bradley (20) were on Thursday convicted of murdering Neil Reilly on January 18th, 2017, by a unanimous jury verdict.
For those who witnessed the horror unfold, the trauma remains, particularly for Danielle Cusack, the State’s key witness. She had been studying for her final veterinary exams after 10 years of being told she was not clever enough.
Awoken in the early hours to the uproar outside, she watched in horror as Reilly was beaten, hacked, kicked and repeatedly driven over. She was not the only person watching, but she was the first to come to his aid.
Using her medical knowledge, she tried to keep him alive. Ultimately, all she could do was hold him and tell him that his sins would be forgiven as he repeated, over and over, “I’m sorry, I’m ready to go now, I have to go.”
Afterwards, she was so hysterical that her father would not let gardaí contact her directly. Despite the shock, Cusack was back in school on Monday, trying to push the images from her mind. She cried uncontrollably for days.
Seven months later, Cusack was finally able to give a statement to gardaí. Giving evidence in court she broke down several times and had to be given time to compose herself as she sobbed.
At one point she uttered: “I’m not from Dublin,” to try to explain why she had found the killing so shocking, as though being from Dublin would have steeled her against the brutality of what had happened outside her door.
Gardaí were surprised that so many people often blighted by serious organised crime gave statements. It was not easy for them. One witness, Jackie Coughlan, said: “I didn’t want to, but I don’t have a choice.”
Visibly shaking, she said she saw someone being attacked with something like a metal bar. “I was hysterical,” she said. “I just wanted it to stop.” Usually, people are so afraid, no one will speak up.
The dead man, Neil Reilly, was not linked to serious criminals. He had a previous conviction for possession of drugs for sale and supply for which he spent a few years in prison. He considered himself a hard man.
When Jason Bradley fell into debt to him, Reilly had no qualms about breaking into the Bradleys’ home, and later firing shots at their house. When Reilly’s son, Dean, was asked if he would ever back down, he replied: “No, he was a man.”
But Reilly was not a big-time criminal and came from a stable and loving home. He was more typical of the criminal whose existence is unnoticed until, fuelled by drugs and access to firearms, it suddenly and violently erupts.
Following an autopsy after his death, cocaine, heroin, methadone and codeine were found in his system.
Paul Bradley, on the other hand, was described by gardaí as a hard-working man who lived an honest life. He is a mechanic and self-made businessman with a garage on the Naas Road. His only previous was for driving offences.
During legal argument in the trial, without the jury present, notes of garda interviews with each of the Bradleys were read out. Gardaí had tried to get Paul Bradley to open up by pointing out: “You’ve earned your crust the hard way and you want your boys to do the same.” He did not reply. He did not reply to any questions put to him.
Weeks before Reilly was beaten to death, Paul Bradley approached a garda and told him his son Jason was in debt to a drug dealer and it was causing trouble for the family. He was at a loss as to what to do.
After Reilly had broken into their home, Bradley Snr slept on a couch downstairs as his own bedroom had been wrecked. The family were already on edge in January 2017. The shotgun blasts from Neil Reilly’s gun lit the tinderbox.