Central Criminal Court
Firefighters have told a murder trial that they found skulls and a ribcage in a burnt-out car after extinguishing the fire in a Louth car park. The jury also heard details of a police car chase in Newry around the same time.
The evidence was given to the Central Criminal Court today in the trial of a 35-year-old Dubliner charged with murdering two men, who the prosecutor described as ‘small-time criminals’.
Jason O’Driscoll, with an address at Richmond Avenue, Fairview is accused of murdering fellow Dubliners 31-year-old Anthony Burnett and 25-year-old Joseph Redmond on March 7th, 2012 in Co Louth.
He has pleaded not guilty to both charges and the jury will be asked to use circumstantial evidence to convict him.
Stephen Hoey testified that he was called to a burning car at Ravensdale Park near Dundalk that night. He told Anne Rowland BL, prosecuting, that, on putting out the flames, he thought he saw something in the driver’s seat.
He said that he cleared the smoke and saw a skull and rib cage on the seat. He said that by the time Gardai arrived, he could clearly see someone hanging out of the driver's seat. The skull was very badly cracked, he added.
Vincent McGuinness, who was his senior, told Ms Rowland that Mr Hoey had alerted him to the body. Mr McGuinness shone his torch into the car and saw the skull, which appeared to be slumped at the driver’s door.
He said he immediately called his men back as he was concerned that this was now a crime scene, and he called Dundalk Garda station.
He testified that he went over to the car one more time with the Gardai to see that the fire was completely out. A garda shone his flashlight into the car at this stage, and Mr McGuinness noticed a second skull in the driver’s footwell.
Newry police officer Constable Niamh Mulholland testified that she and a colleague were pursuing a silver 07 D Mercedes in the city that night, when it stopped at traffic lights.
She told Alexander Owens SC, prosecuting, that it was in the first of the two lanes to go straight ahead, and that she pulled into the second of these lanes alongside it.
“I could see two males, one in the front passenger seat and one in the driver’s seat,” she recalled, explaining that she got a clear view of the driver, but not of the passenger.
“The driver made eye contact with both of us,” she continued. “My passenger, Constable Downey, signaled for him to pull over and I put on the blue lights to signal we were the police.”
She said that the traffic lights were still red but that the silver Mercedes took off immediately. Instead of going straight on, it pulled off to left, going around a pedestrian island.
“We pulled against the flow of traffic as well,” she said.
However, their vehicle was armoured and slow. One of its wheels clipped off the pedestrian island, and they got a flat tyre. They lost sight of the silver car soon afterwards.
She said that she later gave a description of the driver to a facial imaging specialist, who prepared a photofit in her presence.
Two of her colleagues testified later that they had seen the same Mercedes parked up elsewhere in the city for a few days beforehand. They joined in pursuit of the car, when alerted by Constable Downey. However, it was ‘racing’ and they lost it when it went the wrong way around a roundabout.
The trial continues on Friday morning before Mr Justice Michael White and a jury of five women and seven men.