The late Kenneth O'Brien
A Dublin man has admitted shooting dead a father-of-one and dismembering his body, parts of which were later found in a canal. Paul Wells Snr told gardai that the deceased, Kenneth O'Brien, had wanted him to murder Mr O’Brien’s partner.
Paul Wells Senior (50), of Barnamore Park, Finglas, has pleaded not guilty to murdering the 33-year-old at the accused man’s home on January 15 or 16, 2016.
Sean Gillane SC, prosecuting, opened his trial at the Central Criminal Court yesterday (Wednesday).
He told the jury that Mr O’Brien was living with his partner, Eimear Dunne, and their son in Clondalkin in Dublin. He had just returned from Australia, where he had been working.
He was due to go to work in Limerick on Friday January 15th and he stopped replying to Ms Dunne’s text messages that afternoon, something that she found odd.
However, she received a text from an unknown number in the early hours of the following morning. The sender was purporting to be her partner, telling her that he had lost his phone and was going to stay overnight in a hotel.
She became suspicious, though, when she received another message from this number a few hours later. Again purporting to the be the deceased, the sender wrote that he’d had enough, had met someone else, was leaving her and was heading to the ferry. There was also a reference to her caring more about another family member than him.
This person’s name was misspelled and this, along with the tone and language, made her question if it had really come from her partner.
“You’ll be satisfied on the evidence that those texts did not emanate from Kenneth O’Brien,” said Mr Gillane.
Ms Dunne began contacting family, friends and acquaintances to see if they knew where her partner was. This included contacting the accused, who told her that her partner was having an affair in Australia. He showed her ‘some texts and photos of a particular nature concerning this woman’, said the barrister.
Nonetheless, Mr O’Brien was reported missing to gardai that evening.
Earlier that Saturday, two walkers had noticed something of relevance floating in the canal at Ardclough, near Celbridge in Co Kildare. They were among the first civilian witnesses to give evidence in the trial.
Brian O’Dwyer testified that he and his girlfriend had noticed a suitcase with red ribbons attached floating about two metres from the water’s edge. He told Sean Gillane that he used a stick from a hedgerow to pull it towards him.
It was very heavy and his girlfriend had to hold onto him while he retrieved it from the canal. However, no water came out and he pulled open the zip.
“There was clear plastic with red liquid in it,” he recalled.
He called the gardai.
“I said I think we found a body, but the garda was a bit reluctant and Mary pulled it further to check,” he continued. “I also saw what appeared to be skin with hair on it in the plastic.”
He said that he then confirmed to the garda that they had found a bag of human remains.
His girlfriend, Mary Costigan, testified that the case had seemed relatively new and this had drawn their attention.
“I just saw something flesh-coloured,” she recalled of looking inside.
The trial heard that gardai conducted a preliminary examination and confirmed that the plastic contained a human torso. Mr Gillane said that, with Mr O’Brien being reported missing that same day, an obvious line of inquiry was pursued, and a DNA sample confirmed that the torso was his.
The jury also heard from witnesses who, over the following week, found Mr O’Brien’s limbs and skull in three shopping bags elsewhere in the Grand Canal.
A dog walker, Niall McDermott, testified that he found the body of a chainsaw in the Royal Canal at Pike’s Bridge that week, while specialist gardai found a chainsaw blade and chain in different spots in the Curragh.
The jury saw the three parts of the chainsaw in court and viewed photographs of the bags containing the remains.
Mr Gillane said that the cause of death was found to be a gunshot wound to the back of the head.
“Amputation of the head and limbs occured in a manner consistent with the use of a high-speed, mechanical saw,” said Mr Gillane.
The accused was arrested a few days later and his home searched.
“The prosecution case is that Kenneth O’Brien was killed at that address by Paul Wells Snr, shot, murdered there, his body dismembered there,” said the prosecutor.
Mr Gillane also said that Mr O’Brien had been sending money back to Ireland through a currency exchange system into an account owned by the accused.
Mr Wells Snr told gardai that the deceased had wanted to return to Australia and had wanted the accused to murder Ms Dunne. However, he said he had not wanted to do this.
He said that he had not kept an arrangement to meet Mr O'Brien on 15th January. He said it had been to arrange the transfer of a gun.
However, he said that the deceased arrived at his home at 5pm and returned to the topic of killing Ms Dunne. He said that Mr O’Brien showed him a gun, that they went to the back of the house, had a fight, and that the gun fell to the ground.
He said that the deceased was reaching for the gun, but that he, the accused, reached it and fired it a number of times, and that this was how Mr O’Brien had died. He said that he panicked and dismembered the remains.
The trial continues tomorrow morning before Mr Justice Paul McDermott and a jury of six women and six men.