Kenneth O'Brien, whose dismembered body was found in the canal in Ardclough
A woman, whose partner’s dismembered body was found in a canal, has accepted that he was a secretive person who’d had affairs, secretly recorded her conversations and suggested to his mistress that she provoke his partner into hitting the other woman.
However, she had not heard that a friend had caught him making pipe bombs or that her partner had first befriended the man charged with his murder because the accused was an IRA man.
Eimear Dunne was being cross examined by the defence last Friday, October 12, in the trial of Paul Wells Senior, of Barnamore Park, Finglas, Dublin, who is charged with murdering her partner, Kenneth O’Brien, at the accused man’s home.
Mr Wells (50) has admitted shooting the father-of-one dead and dismembering his body. However, he has pleaded not guilty at the Central Criminal Court to murdering the 33-year-old on January 15 or 16, 2016. He told gardai that the deceased had wanted him to murder Ms Dunne.
The Dublin woman had told the prosecution about a break-up text sent from somebody purporting to be Mr O'Brien on the morning of the 16th. She also gave evidence of collapsing after Mr Wells told her the deceased was having affair once she told him he was missing.
Ms Dunne testified that she and their son had kissed the deceased goodbye that morning before she dropped the little boy to her mother’s ahead of her work day. Mr O’Brien reminded her that he would be home late that night, as he was working in Limerick.
She told Seán Gillane SC, prosecuting, that they had exchanged text messages throughout the morning, mainly concerning the cold, icy conditions, with Mr O’Brien enquiring as to whether she had got to work ok.
This continued up until about 1.30pm, after which she heard nothing, despite texting and ringing him. His phone was off, which she found unusual.
She had still heard nothing by the time she went to bed that night, but received a text message from an unknown number at 3.30am.
“Lost my phone today,” it read. “I’m staying in a hotel tonight. Having a drink. Talk tomorrow.”
She thought that it was not like her partner to go for a drink in his work clothes.
The same number sent another message at 7.49am.
“So here it is,” it read. “I’m heading for the ferry today. I can’t handle being home and I want out. You care more about Zac and your family. I met someone else and she came to ireland yesterday. I met her today. I’m going with her. There’s no point in talking. All I’d get anyway is a row.”
The sender wrote that she would hear from him when he was sorted to organise things with their son and his ‘gear’.
“I've had to spoof everyone to do this but this girl will put it right. I’ll be in touch,” it concluded.
She sent a reply back immediately.
“Then, I was looking at the text message and I was saying: ‘That’s not right’,” she explained. “Zach is spelt wrong. ZAC is not how you spell it. There’s no full stops,” she continued. There’s no capital letter for Ireland. That’s not Ken. Ken is very particular about his text messages. ‘Gear’ is not a word Ken would use and ‘spoof’ is definitely not a word Kenneth O'Brien would use.”
Ms Dunne began calling family and Mr O’Brien’s friends, including the accused.
“I asked did he know what was going on. Ken hadn’t come home,” she said. “He said basically: ‘Look, he’s seeing someone else’.”
She said that he explained that the deceased had met someone in Australia, where he had been working until Christmas. He said that he had been seeing her for a good while before he came home and that he hadn’t wanted to return to Ireland.
“I think I collapsed on the floor,” she said.
The accused told her he’d be over in a few minutes.
He arrived and showed her photos of her partner with another woman. Some were intimate. There were also photographs of what appeared to be the the same woman in her underwear, and a close-up shot of female genitalia.
“I felt weak. I couldn’t really say anything. I just couldn’t believe it,” she recalled.
She said that Mr Wells had offered to send the photos to her phone, but that her mother had intervened and told him that she didn’t want them.
Michael O’Higgins SC, defending, began his cross-examination of the witness by telling her that he would have to ask her some personal questions.
He also explained that his client was asserting that the man she had been with since she was 16 was applying pressure on the accused to kill her because he wanted to take their child back to Australia.
“Ok,” she replied.
She agreed with his assertion that her partner had been a very secretive person, whose ‘left hand wouldn’t know what the right hand was doing’.
When asked if he had been mean with money, she replied that he was cautious.
The care worker accepted that she had not known that he was earning €60,000 net in Australia until his death. He had sent around €750 a month home to cover his half of the mortgage and their son’s creche fees.
Mr O’Higgins informed her that, despite him having told his family that he was moving home, he had told his employer in Australia that he would be back in January. When asked if this was typical, she said ‘it would be’.
Mr O’Higgins then read from the statement of Mr O’Brien’s best friend, who said he had walked into the couple’s shed, where the deceased had been working one day. He had said that Mr O’Brien had thrown a rag over something, but that he had seen ‘a number of pipe bombs that were assembled on the table, one with wires coming out of it’.
“Do ypu know anything about anything of that sort?” asked the barrister.
“No,” she replied.
“Might that tend to suggest there are very significant aspects of Kenneth that you don’t know about?” he asked.
“Probably, yeah,” she replied.
She agreed that she learned towards the end of the last decade that Mr O’Brien had been involved with another woman because the woman had been in a car accident with him.
She agreed that the car had been broken up into parts, but then reported stolen for insurance purposes.
She said she had got someone to hack her partner’s email account and that it was clear from messages and pictures that something was going on with this woman.
She agreed that she had confronted this woman more than once, taking her phone and looking at it the second time.
“Was there a text from Kenneth... suggesting that she should provoke you into assaulting her?” asked Mr O’Higgins.
“There was,” she said, agreeing that she was shocked.
“Apparently, it was being suggested that she would provoke you to hit her, there would be a complaint to police and the charge would be dropped in exchange for you leaving,” he suggested.
Ms Dunne confirmed this. She agreed that she confronted the woman once more and this all led to bad blood with another man, who came to their house to confront Mr O’Brien.
She said that she was outside at the time and did not know of any plan for her partner’s friend to fire Mr O’Brien’s legally-held firearm if the deceased had raised his arm during this confrontation.
Mr O’Higgins put to her that her partner was worried about this incident and that this was when he had contacted the accused, who he knew, ‘because Paul Wells was a republican and an IRA man’.
“Is that why he contacted him? So he didn’t just know him from doing work on his car?” asked Mr Dunne.
“Did you know he was in the IRA?” Mr O’Higgins asked of his client.
She said that Mr Wells had suggested that he was in the same circles as someone she had known was a republican.
She agreed that Mr O’Brien had fallen out with another man after he learned that she had discussed the other woman with him in their kitchen.
“He (the deceased) had placed a voice-activated recorder in the kitchen,” remarked Mr O’Higgins. “When did it come out that he was taping your conversations?”
She said she didn’t know but said that she wasn't really surprised.
“He was into gadgets,” she explained, but accepted that it wasn’t a common thing to do.
He asked her if she was aware that Mr O’Brien had been in a relationship with a woman in Australia between July 2013 and March or April 2014.
“I had a feeling there was something going on,” she replied.
The barrister informed her that this Cork woman had told gardai that they’d moved in together in November 2013 and had gone on holiday to Bali in March 2014 and that the relationship had ended soon afterwards.
Ms Dunne said that the accused had told her about Bali when he had come to her house after Mr O’Brien’s disappearance.
The barrister also asked her about the timing of the photographs sent by the deceased to his client, which were shown to her in her kitchen on January 16th and 17th 2016, ‘in respect of which there was no excuse or justification’.
“It would appear those pictures were sent to a couple of other people all around November 2015,” he said.
He asked if embarking on another relationship so close to coming home was consistent with wanting to re-establish a relationship with Ms Dunne.
“It could have been one last fling,” she replied.
The trial continues on Monday before Mr Justice Paul McDermott and a jury of six women and six men.