Kildare man found guilty of impeding murder prosecution in body in canal case

Paul Wells Junior found guilty of impeding prosecution of father by disposing of chainsaw

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Kildare man found guilty of impeding murder hunt in body in canal case

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A man who disposed of the chainsaw used to dismember the body of Kenneth O'Brien has been found guilty of impeding the prosecution of his father, who carried out the murder and dumped the victim's body parts in the Grand Canal.

Paul Wells Junior (33) was charged with impeding the apprehension or prosecution of his father Paul Wells Senior (51) by disposing of a blood-stained chainsaw, which the Central Criminal Court heard had a piece of "brown meat" embedded in its motor. It was the prosecution's case that the defendant did so knowing that his father had taken a life.

The father-of-three told gardai in his interviews that he did not know the STIHL chainsaw had been used to dismember Mr O'Brien's body and insisted he was just "putting the jigsaw together" when he threw the motor into the Royal Canal in Maynooth, Co Kildare. 

Wells Jnr maintained throughout his interviews that he did not try to hinder the investigation and was afraid his father, who he described as a "glorified criminal", would shoot him. 

The three-week trial heard that Wells Snr was a "very violent" man who in the past had tried to get the defendant to carry explosives and join the IRA. The killer also made threats from prison on the defendant's life and said if he did not put a bullet in his own son, "the IRA would". 

Wells Jnr also confirmed to gardai in his interviews that his father drove him to the canal in Sallins on the night of January 16. The accused said he heard four splashes after the killer threw several bags into the water. 

Furthermore, Wells Jnr told the authorities that his father informed him the body of a west Dublin man had been found on January 19. Gardai gave evidence in the trial that it was not publicly known where the deceased was from at this stage of the investigation. 

The trial also heard that Wells Jnr went on his stag party to Latvia with his father, just days after Wells Snr had dismembered the victim's body. The accused also accepted over €11,000 in cash from his father but disputed it was payment to get rid of the chainsaw. 

Wells Jnr, with an address at Beatty Park, Celbridge, Co Kildare had pleaded not guilty to disposing of a chainsaw motor at a time unknown between January 19 and 20, 2016 in Co Kildare and not guilty to disposing of a chainsaw blade and chain on January 20, 2016 in the same location. 

The jury of six men and six women spent three hours and 55 minutes deliberating before bringing in a unanimous verdict of guilty on both counts.

After they had delivered their verdict, Ms Justice Carmel Stewart thanked the jury for their attendance saying: "It has been a difficult and distressing trial and your attention to the matter is much appreciated." 

The judge exempted them from jury service for ten years.

Wells Jnr was remanded on continuing bail until February 10, when it is expected that his sentence hearing will take place.

Prosecution counsel Michael Bowman SC said in his closing speech that the defendant knew what he did when he disposed of the chainsaw and fully understood the consequences of his actions. 

Mr Bowman maintained the prosecution had proven that Wells Jnr disposed of the chainsaw, its motor and blade because he knew Wells Snr had used it to murder Mr O’Brien. The defence of reasonable excuse did not exist in the case, he submitted.

The barrister acknowledged that this was an emotive case which evoked one’s natural sympathies as it told a "harrowing tale of childhood trauma" and "an abuse of family relationships". Nevertheless, he warned the jury that sympathy could not form part of their determination in the case.

In his closing address, defence counsel Damien Colgan SC said Wells Jnr committed "an act of stupidity" when he disposed of the chainsaw used to dismember Mr O'Brien's body but he did not impede the investigation "in any shape". 

Mr Colgan asked the jury to consider the defence of reasonable excuse and emphasised that the defendant did not have the requisite knowledge at the time to know what his father had done. 

He said Wells Jnr was physically assaulted by his father from a young age and had grown up in a volatile environment. His big fear was coming forward with the chainsaw as he harboured a genuine fear of what could happen to him, said Mr Colgan, adding that his fear continues to this day. 

Wells Senior, of Barnamore Park, Finglas in Dublin 11 was jailed for life last year having been found guilty of murdering Mr O'Brien at his home in Finglas on January 15 or 16, 2016. Wells Snr admitted that, after shooting the 33-year-old father in his back garden, he had dismembered his body and dumped it in a suitcase in the Grand Canal.