The shot that killed Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe was fired from six to seven feet from his head, a ballistics expert has told the Central Criminal Court.
Det Gda Seamus O'Donnell showed the jury a semi-automatic, Beretta A301, 12-gauge shotgun that he said is similar to the one used to shoot Det Gda Donohoe. He demonstrated how the shotgun is loaded and fired and told the jury that he fired a number of shots at targets from different ranges using the same type of cartridge that was found beside Det Gda Donohoe's body. By comparing the size of the impact on those targets to the size of the wound to the deceased's right eye he concluded that Det Gda Donohoe was was six to seven feet from the muzzle of the gun when the fatal shot was fired.
Aaron Brady (28) from New Road, Crossmaglen, Co Armagh has pleaded not (NOT) guilty to the capital murder of Det Gda Donohoe (41) who was then a member of An Garda Siochana on active duty on January 25, 2013 at Lordship Credit Union, Bellurgan, Co Louth. Mr Brady has also pleaded not (NOT) guilty to a charge of robbing approximately e7,000 in cash and assorted cheques on the same date and at the same location.
Gda O'Donnell, of the ballistics section of the Garda Technical Bureau, told Brendan Grehan SC for the prosecution that he examined a shotgun cartridge found at the scene where Detective Garda Donohoe was shot. It was, he said, a 12-gauge cartridge from a Spanish manufacturer named DB that would usually be used for shooting birds or small animals. The live round would have contained about 250 lead pellets of average size weighing a total of 32 grams, he said.
The witness said 90 pellets were found during the post mortem on Det Gda Donohoe. He weighed a sample of these and found they were consistent with what would be found in the cartridge found at the scene. Following a microscopic examination of the cartridge he formed the opinion that a pump action shotgun or a semi-automatic, such as the Beretta shown to the jury, had been used to discharge it.
Describing in detail the workings of the gun, he said that once the pellets have been discharged and strike a surface they usually make a circular pattern. The further the pellets travel, he said, the wider the circle. He said he measured the diameter of the shot impact pattern to the wound on Det Gda Donohoe's head to be approximately 60mm. At the Garda Headquarters ballistics firing range he fired a number of shots from different distances at flat targets and measured the circular pattern. At a distance of six to seven feet from the muzzle of the gun to the target, the shot impact pattern measured 60mm in diameter, he said. He concluded: "The range of the shot that shot Det Gda O'Donohue, based on this particular weapon, was between six and seven feet from the muzzle of the gun."
Det Gda O'Donnell said the weapon used to shoot Det Gda Donohoe has never been found so he can't be "as confident" in his tests. But he used a similar weapon and the same type of cartridge that was retrieved at the scene.
Alan Sharkey told Lorcan Staines SC for the prosecution that he bought a Volkswagen Passat on January 22, 2013, three days before the shooting and robbery at Lordship. That night he locked the car and then locked his front door from the inside, leaving the keys in the lock. Shortly after 4.30am he was awoken by the wind and noticed the house was very cold. When he went downstairs he saw his front door was open and then realised the car was gone from the driveway. The barrel of the lock in the front door had been removed and the keys were gone. Mr Sharkey identified photographs of the Volkswagen Passat to the jury.
Constable Andy Moore told Mr Staines that he and his colleague were made aware of what had happened at Lordship and were on the lookout for a burned out car. On Sunday January 27 they went to Cumson Road, off the Chaleybeate Road, in south Armagh because this was an area that had previously been used to dump cars. There they found a burned out car which, despite the damage, Constable Moore believed to be a Volkswagen Passat.
Constable Chris Chain told Mr Staines that he searched the area around the car and found a Harp Lager can, a lighter and a bag containing "assorted items".
The trial continues in front of Justice Michael White and a jury of seven women and eight men.