Witness says he got clear look at killer


A retired Garda sergeant said yesterday he had a "face-on" look at the man who killed his colleague 18 years ago.

Mr Patrick O'Brien said he watched Garda Patrick Reynolds fall to the ground after he saw two flashes and heard two shots fired by a man standing on a landing in a block of flats.

"To this day I often think how did the other bullet miss me," he told the Special Criminal Court. "I am convinced it went over my head."

Mr O'Brien was giving evidence on the fourth day of the trial of Mr Sean Hughes (42), from Albert Terrace, Belfast, who denies the capital murder of Garda Reynolds (23) at Avonbeg Gardens, Tallaght, Co Dublin, on February 20th, 1982.

The charge carries a mandatory sentence of 40 years' imprisonment without remission.

Mr Hughes also denies the theft of £62,100 from a bank in Askeaton, Co Limerick, on February 18th, 1982, receiving stolen cash, and the unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition with intent to endanger life in Tallaght on February 20th, 1982.

The prosecution has claimed that the gardai had surprised a number of people with the proceeds of a bank robbery in Askeaton and a number of guns. Garda Reynolds was killed by a single shot to the back as he tried to flee from a gunman.

Cross-examined by Mr Paul McDermott SC, defending, Mr O'Brien said i for over thirty four years and was Tallaght was Garda Reynolds's first station after he graduated from Temple more.

He said that he and other gardai, including Garda Reynolds, went to Avonbeg Gardens after an anonymous telephone caller said three men had carried black bags into the flats.

He and Garda Reynolds were at the back of the flats when they heard a commotion at the front, the court heard. Garda Reynolds moved to the front. Mr O'Brien said he then heard a detective shout: "There are a lot of guns up there." He said he went to the front of the flats, where he saw a man standing on the first-floor landing with a gun in his hand.

He said he also saw Garda Reynolds near the landing.

"He was in the act of turning to come back down the stairs when I saw the flashes and heard the gun. It was a matter of seconds," he added.

Mr O'Brien said a light in the ceiling of the flats allowed him to see the gunman.

He said that two men, including the gunman, ran from the building and escaped in a car.

Mr O'Brien said that as the gunman got into the car, he was looking "face-on at him".

Mr O'Brien travelled to Paris twice in October and November 1982, accompanied by other gardai under the command of Det Chief Supt Edward Ryan, the court heard. He said it was believed the two suspects for the murder were in Paris.

Asked if he was aware that the British intelligence section of the British embassy in Paris was involved in the operation, Mr O'Brien said he was not.

The trial continues today.