Special Criminal Court

Aaron Brady texted girlfriend he was loading a lorry around time of shooting, court hears


Eoin Reynolds


Eoin Reynolds


The man was arraigned before the Central Criminal Court this morning

A man who denies the capital murder of Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe texted his girlfriend to say he was loading a lorry about 90 minutes before the shooting and asked if she wanted to meet up later that evening, the Central Criminal Court has heard.

Under cross examination Detective Inspector Mark Phillips told defence counsel Michael O'Higgins SC that gardai retrieved a number of text messages from the accused man Aaron Brady's girlfriend's phone. Jessica King's phone was seized by members of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) the day after the robbery as Mr Brady had told gardai he was with her at the time of the shooting.

It also emerged during cross examination that the yard in south Armagh where Mr Brady said he was loading waste from laundered diesel onto a truck at the time of the shooting was not searched by the PSNI. Insp Phillips also told Mr O'Higgins that the investigation team believe that the raiders had been in position beside the credit union from about 20.50, about 35 minutes before the fatal shooting. He said that investigators believe a car seen in the area from about that time was linked to the robbery.

Mr Brady (29) 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 shortly before 8.30pm 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.

Insp Phillips confirmed the contents of a series of texts between Mr Brady and Ms King on January 25, 2013. The first from Aaron Brady was received by Ms King at 14.43 and read: "Where did you get the feed. I'm not doing anything. Have a few things to do later on at about 8 'til ten. Then I'm doing nothing if you want to do something. If not I understand. Is your ones giving out today."

Insp Phillips agreed that when asked about this text Ms King said that when he said he had a "few things to do later on" he might have meant that he was "away with the lads" or "down in the yard loading the lorry".

At 16.52 that afternoon Mr Brady again texted to say: "I was there for a while. Had to meet a man there now. I have work at 8 'til about 10.30 then that's it. Sure if not, I will be stuck in the cold house and am not putting heating oil in it until [named person] gives money."

Insp Phillips said Ms King told investigators she understood Mr Brady to mean that from 8 until 10.30 he would be in the yard "where they would be loading and washing diesel and that."

At 19.50 Ms King received a message from Aaron Brady stating: "Aww. They won't say nothing to you will they. Watch any good movies. I'm going to get soaked in a while. Rippin." By "ripping" Ms Flynn understood him to mean that he was "in a rage".

Ms King texted Mr Brady saying: "Not really a scary one. Just dopey ones. They didn't even want to talk to me because I'm like a wasp this day. What do you have to do?" Ms Flynn told PSNI officers that she deleted Mr Brady's response to that message because she knew police were coming and she didn't want to "get any of the lads in trouble". However, she remembered that he had said he was "loading the lorry" so she knew he meant he was working in the diesel yard.

The text was later retrieved from the phone using specialist software, Insp Phillips said. It was sent at 19.54 and read: "Just have to load the lorry but will only take an hour or two. This phone is going to go dead. I will text you as soon as home and get it charged. Love you. x."

Insp Phillips agreed that there were discrepancies between what Mr Brady told gardai in February 2013 about his movements that evening and what was contained in the text messages to Ms King in that he told gardai he was in the yard for just ten to 15 minutes. The witness disagreed with Mr O'Higgins when he suggested it was "odd" that the book of evidence doesn't give any detail of a meeting or discussion among gardai about this discrepancy. 

Mr O'Higgins said that his client's "movements in this yard are critical as to whether he can participate in this robbery." The witness replied that after Mr Brady gave his account over two statements to gardai he was told that an investigation would be carried out and he agreed to speak to gardai a third time if anything arose. Following garda investigations, Inspector Phillips said, the third meeting never took place. 

Mr O'Higgins also questioned the witness as to whether the diesel laundering yard was ever searched. Insp Phillips said he knew from "another leg of the investigation" that diesel laundering took place at that site and said that he, on one occasion, looked at the site when he was driving by it. He said it was not his decision to order a search of the site and he couldn't say why the PSNI was not asked to search it. When Mr O'Higgins asked him if it ever crossed his mind that the yard should be searched he said: "No it didn't."

He said no other members of the investigation team suggested searching the site and the senior investigating officer did not suggest to Insp Phillips that it should be searched. Mr O'Higgins asked: "Does that sound extraordinary?" Insp Phillips replied: "No judge."

The witness agreed that had police searched the site they might have found evidence of diesel laundering that would "tend to suggest he [Aaron Brady] was telling some truth" or they might have found no such evidence which would show that Mr Brady's account was "pie in the sky". When Mr O'Higgins asked why this information wasn't checked out, Inspector Phillips said: "The information was most definitely checked out."

Mr O'Higgins said that the PSNI were not asked to visit the site when prosecution counsel Brendan Grehan interrupted and asked for the jury to leave. Minutes later Mr Justice White brought the jury back to say that "at short notice, some enquiries have to be made" and asked them to return to court tomorrow.

The trial continues in front of Justice White and a jury of eight men and seven women.