Kenneth O'Brien, whose dismembered body was found in the canal in Ardclough
A Dubliner, who shot a father-of-one dead and dismembered his body, described the deceased as his friend when arrested for his murder.
The 50-year-old’s trial heard that the deceased was in good form the day before his remains were found in a suitcase floating in the Grand Canal. The jury also saw footage of the accused driving towards that stretch of canal hours earlier.
The evidence was heard by the Central Criminal Court today, Thursday, October 11, in the trial of Paul Wells Senior, of Barnamore Park, Finglas, who is charged with murdering Kenneth O’Brien at the accused man’s home.
Mr Wells has admitted shooting him dead and dismembering his body. However, he has pleaded not guilty to murdering the 33-year-old on January 15 or 16, 2016. He told gardai that the deceased had wanted him to murder Mr O’Brien’s partner.
One of the last people to see Mr O’Brien alive was a Virgin Media worker, who was installing services in the deceased man’s Dublin home.
Patrick Holligan testified that he arrived at Mr O’Brien’s house in Clondalkin at 10am on Friday, January 15. He told Sean Gillane SC, prosecuting, that Mr O’Brien was the sole occupant of the house and nobody else called to the house in the hour he was there.
“I recall maybe a couple of text messages at the time, but not speaking,” he said, when asked if Mr O’Brien had spoken to anyone on the phone.
Under cross examination by Michael O’Higgins SC, defending, he agreed that he had engaged in chit chat with Mr O’Brien, whom he had never met before.
“He said he’d been away in Australia,” he recalled. “He wasn’t overly looking for work for the next few months as he had made some money in Australia.”
He said that Mr O’Brien had been in good form.
Mr O’Higgins asked him about telling the gardai that he didn’t think Mr O’Brien was too happy about being back.
“If that’s what I said, then yeah,” he replied. “I remember saying that, but I can’t remember feeling that.”
The jury then spent much of the day watching Mr Wells’ movements on CCTV footage.
Garda Shona Nolan talked the jury through the footage, which showed Mr Wells driving in the direction of Ardclough, Co Kildare around 6am the following day. The jury had already heard from a couple, who found Mr O’Brien’s torso in the canal there that afternoon.
Sergeant Gerard Moore testified that he secured a search warrant for Mr Wells’ home in early February of that year. He told Mr Gillane that he and a number of colleagues went to the house on the morning of February 6.
He gave evidence of arresting Mr Wells on suspicion of murdering Mr O’Brien.
“He was my friend,” was the accused man’s reply to caution.
Detective Sergeant David Conway was part of the search team on that and subsequent days. He testified that he took photographs of the house, yard, shed and its contents. This included photographing carpet after it had been treated to reveal the possible presence of blood.
He also photographed a mark of blood on a portable heater and staining on the carpet in the boot of Mr Wells’ car. The photographs were shown to the jury.
Detective Sergeant Thomas Power of the Garda Ballistics Section testified that he attended the scene where three bags containing the head, leg and arms of a male had been found.
The jury had heard that another bag had been found the previous day; it contained what was thought to be a leg.
D Sgt Power told Mr Gillane that the three bags he observed were heavy, cloth shopping bags.
“The handles of the bags were tied,” he recalled. “Within each of the bags were red bricks.”
He said he also attended the post-mortem exam on Mr O’Brien’s remains and was handed a discharged bullet taken from the head. On further examination, he found this to be a .38 /.357-inch calibre bullet
“It was consistent with impacting with a hard surface and was damaged in doing so,” he said, adding that this would have been from penetrating the skull.
“To date the firearm has not been recovered,” he explained. “But I can estimate the type of firearm, a semi-automatic pistol.”
The trial continues on Friday morning before Mr Justice Paul McDermott and a jury of six women and six men.