Kildare man thought his father was 'going to shoot him' in aftermath of body-in-canal murder

Trial of man accused of impeding Kenneth O'Brien murder investigation is ongoing at Central Criminal Court

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CENTRAL CRIMINAL COURT

The man was arraigned before the Central Criminal Court this morning

A man accused of impeding the Kenneth O'Brien murder investigation told gardai that he thought his father, who dismembered the victim's body and dumped it in the Grand Canal, was going to shoot him in the hours after the deceased went missing.
 
The prosecution has alleged that the accused man, who endured a "life of hardship" under his father, dumped parts of a chainsaw in different locations, knowing at the time that his father had taken a life.

Detective Sergeant Gerard Moore was giving evidence yesterday, Wednesday, in the Central Criminal Court trial of Paul Wells Junior (33), who is charged with impeding the apprehension or prosecution of his father Paul Wells Senior (51) nearly four years ago.

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

Paul Wells Senior was jailed for life last year having been found guilty of murdering Kenneth 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.

Giving evidence today, Detective Sergeant Gerard Moore outlined to prosecuting counsel Michael Bowman SC the relevance of certain locations in the case. The witness said Mr O'Brien's torso was recovered from a suitcase at the Grand Canal in Ardclogh in Co. Kildare on January 16 and a garda investigation commenced. 

The witness agreed with counsel that the body or motor of the chainsaw was discovered from Pike Bridge on the Royal Canal in Maynooth on January 22. On January 24 and 25, the remaining parts of Mr O'Brien's body was discovered in bags at the Grand Canal, they had been placed there by Wells Snr, said Det Sgt Moore. The witness said a blade and chain from the chainsaw used in the dismemberment of Mr O'Brien was also recovered by members of The Garda Sub-Aqua Unit at the Curragh.

Det Sgt Moore told defence counsel Damien Colgan SC that Mr Wells Jnr had given a voluntary statement to gardai on February 5. As a result of what the accused man said, gardai raided his father's house the following day. Det Sgt Moore agreed that Wells Snr was well known to gardai as a member of the IRA and had a conviction for firearms and explosives. 

Following this, Mr Colgan put sections of his client's garda statement to the witness. The court heard that Mr Wells Jnr told gardai that he got a phonecall from his brother on the evening of January 16, asking him to meet his father in a Tesco carpark. The accused man drove to meet Wells Snr at the supermarket around 7pm and they went for a quick drive in the direction of Straffan village. Mr Wells Jnr told gardai that his father seemed really on edge and kept looking over his shoulder as he drove into Sallins. The accused said: "I started worrying about our path and he knew the dark roads. He was sweating all the time, I thought I was going to be shot."

Wells Snr told his son that he "needed a piss" and pulled up at the canal on the Sallins Road. The accused man said his father went to the boot of his car and he could hear him "shuffling something about". "Two seconds later I heard two splashes," said Mr Wells Jnr, adding that his father then dropped him back to his car at Tesco. 

Det Sgt Moore agreed with Mr Colgan that parts of the chainsaw had been recovered at a later date from shallow water at the Curragh under the direction of Mr Wells Jnr. The witness further agreed that the accused could have thrown the parts into the middle of the lake but had not. 

In re-examination, Det Sgt Moore agreed with the prosecution that Wells Snr had become a person of interest "well in advance" of Mr Wells Jnr attending at the garda station on February 5. 

'Moving abroad'

Earlier yesterday, Eimear Dunne, partner of Kenneth O’Brien, told the Central Criminal Court about a break-up text sent from someone purporting to be him, informing her that he was moving abroad with someone else.

Giving evidence, Ms Dunne told prosecuting counsel Michael Bowman SC that she met Kenneth O’Brien at 16 years of age, when she was working as a lounge girl in the local pub in Clondalkin. They started going out shortly afterwards and purchased a house together in 2006.

Ms Dunne testified that her partner was skilled in mechanics, had an interest in cars and worked on engines. He worked for a company on the Naas road which later ceased trading and he received a redundancy payment, she said.

She agreed with Mr Bowman that the deceased was quiet, kept to himself, wasn’t "a talker" and was far happier when he was kept occupied through work.

Mr O’Brien and another man rented a shed or work space beside the Grand Canal in Ardclough in Co. Kildare, which they used to service vehicles, she said, adding that her partner had met Wells Snr through this work colleague before they parted ways. 

Ms Dunne said her son was born in 2011 and money had become tight around 2013. Mr O’Brien got a good job working with machinery in Australia and went to Perth in 2013. However, it became clear that Mr O’Brien was missing his family and home so he returned from Australia on December 17, 2015, she said.

Ms Dunne explained that she had gone to work on the morning of January 15 and Mr O’Brien was at home as he was getting picked up for work at 2pm that day.

There was an exchange of text messages between the couple that morning and Ms Dunne said she noticed nothing out of the ordinary in regards to their communication. The last text Ms Dunne received from Mr O’Brien was at 1.53pm that day, she said, adding that she had later texted him on two occasions but got no reply.

Ms Dunne said she received a text message from another mobile number at 3.36am that night, purporting to be from her partner. The text message indicated that he had lost his phone and was gone to have a drink.

The witness agreed with Mr Bowman that she later told gardai that this was not her partner’s "way of texting" and she thought it was someone else who had sent the message. She also told gardai that her mind was racing as Mr O’Brien would not normally go for a drink.

Ms Dunne said she did not text this number back and received another text message from the same number at 7.49am on the morning of January 16. This text message indicated that he was heading to the ferry as he could not handle being home and was going to move abroad with someone else, she said.

Ms Dunne agreed with counsel that the use of certain words caused her to believe that this text had not come from her partner. 

Ms Dunne said she rang her partner's friend, who informed her that Mr O’Brien wasn’t suppose to go on a job with him that day.

The witness said she then rang Wells Snr to see if he knew where Mr O’Brien was but she could not get hold of him. However, Wells Snr rang her back and suggested to her that Mr O’Brien was involved with another woman in Australia.

Wells Snr arrived over to the house that day and told Ms Dunne and her family that Mr O’Brien had been involved with another woman in Australia and had “up and left”.

Ms Dunne said she didn’t accept this as Mr O’Brien was committed to moving home on a full-time basis and his belongings were being shipped back from Australia. 

Ms Dunne agreed that she was taken aback by what Wells Snr had told her and at one stage dropped to her knees in shock.

The witness said she checked to see if anything had been taken from their house but Mr O'Brien's two laptops and toothbrush were still there, items he would not go anywhere without, she said. Mr O'Brien's aunt went to gardai on January 16 and reported him missing. 

The following day, Ms Dunne met Wells Snr in McDonald's at Liffey Valley Shopping Centre, where he tried to convince her that her partner had run off with another woman, she said. Ms Dunne agreed with counsel that she wasn't satisfied with what she had been told. The mother-of-one told Wells Snr that Mr O'Brien had been reported as a missing person and that he would have to help gardai. 

On January 18, Ms Dunne said she noticed her partner's backpack, small black suitcase and larger plastic black suitcase missing. There had also been a discussion between the couple before Christmas 2015 about an investment which Mr O'Brien had made but she did not know any details about it. She agreed that she had described her partner as private and secretive. 

In cross-examination, Ms Dunne told defence counsel Damien Colgan SC that Wells Snr called to her house on a weekly basis when her partner was in Australia but she would not have trusted him. She also knew of Mr Wells Jnr, she said.  

The witness agreed with Mr Colgan that she found out Mr O'Brien was sending €5,000 home to Wells Snr on a monthly basis when he was in Australia. Ms Dunne agreed that Wells Snr was encouraging her to forget about Mr O'Brien when he called to her house on January 16. "The rest of him [Mr O'Brien] was probably in his car when he was at my house that evening," she said.

The trial continues today.