Central Criminal Court
A senior investigating officer who oversaw part of the investigation into the murder of Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe has rejected suggestions that gardai "squandered" leads and failed to follow up on obvious lines of inquiry.
Retired former detective inspector Mr Pat Marry denied that gardai had “tunnel vision” and described as “unfair” a suggestion that anyone who has any understanding of how an investigation is carried out would have followed up on matters that counsel said gardai, in this case, had failed to investigate.
Aaron Brady (28) from New Road, Crossmaglen, Co Armagh has pleaded not guilty to the capital murder of Det Gda Adrian Donohoe 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 guilty to a charge of robbing approximately €7,000 in cash and assorted cheques on the same date and at the same location.
Michael O’Higgins SC for the defence yesterday began his cross examination of Mr Marry by saying he wanted to examine whether his client could have been laundering diesel on the evening Det Gda Donohoe was shot dead.
Today Mr O’Higgins went through phone records showing numerous contacts between Mr Brady and a group of people that includes two known fuel launderers on the day of the shooting and the following day.
Mr Marry agreed there was a lot of contact but added that there is no way to know what was discussed. He pointed out that a number of those phones were inactive from 8pm to about 10.30pm on the night of the robbery which happened at about 9.25pm. He said this inactivity informed his thinking about the investigation.
Mr O’Higgins also pointed out that there was a garda report suggesting that the two known diesel launderers travelled from Monaghan to Dublin and back again in a trailer that could have been carrying laundered diesel on the day of the shooting. Mr Marry said phone analysis suggested such a journey but he couldn’t say whether they were in a trailer.
Mr O’Higgins also put it to him that gardai learned in March 2018 of an allegation that one of the fuel launderers was, in January 2013, renting a diesel laundering site on Concession Road in Armagh where Mr Brady says he was at the time of the shooting.
Counsel asked why gardai didn’t take any further steps to establish if these people were involved in fuel laundering on the day of the shooting. Mr Marry said that the phone contacts among the group might have nothing to do with fuel laundering. He said that gardai took a statement from one of the known fuel launderers in February 2013 and at the end of that interview the man said he wanted nothing more to do with the investigation and would not speak to gardai again. He said the man was asked to account for his movements but when it came to the “nitty gritty” he refused to go any further.
He disagreed that gardai “rolled over”, insisting that the man was giving a voluntary statement and he didn’t want to go any further.
Mr O’Higgins said these matters in relation to fuel laundering were “self-evidently screaming to be followed up”. Mr Marry said that he is not saying that those people are not involved in fuel laundering, but added that they may not have been on that night. He said the phone records, which showed that Mr Brady’s phones and phones belonging to other associates of Mr Brady including three named suspects for the robbery at Lordship, were inactive for about two and a half hours around the time of the robbery. Among the inactive phones was one belonging to the fuel launderer. Mr Marry said people involved in fuel laundering don’t turn off their phones. They keep them on so that they can be contacted by scouts looking out for customs officers.
Mr O’Higgins said there were “screamingly obvious lines of inquiry which ought to have been followed up and weren’t.” Mr Marry replied: “I hear what you are saying but I disagree with you.”
Mr O’Higgins continued: “This was approached with tunnel vision and very obvious matters which required to be followed up were not.”
Mr Marry again disagreed. When Mr O’Higgins said that “anybody who has any understanding of how an investigation is carried out” would agree with him, Mr Marry replied: “I totally disagree with that. It is an unfair comment. I was involved in a capital murder not a revenue offence.”
He said gardai investigated the crime for which Mr Brady is before the court, adding that he makes no apology for it and believes the investigation took the right path. He said fuel laundering is mostly investigated by customs and excise. The murder investigation took precedence over fuel laundering, he said, adding that the investigating team didn’t believe that fuel laundering was taking place in the yard on Concession Road on the night Det Gda Donohoe was shot.
Mr O’Higgins said: “When you want to get to the bottom of something you don't go on what you believe, you investigate.”
“That's exactly what we did,” said Mr Marry. “That is exactly what you did not do”, counsel said. “I disagree with you,” Mr Marry responded.
Mr O’Higgins pointed to a tip-off from a member of the public who contacted gardai in May 2016 to say there was a rumour going around that Aaron Brady was dumping cubes of laundered diesel sludge on the night of the shooting. Mr Marry said that gardai deal in facts, not rumours. Mr O’Higgins said that the garda who followed up on the tip-off didn’t name Mr Brady in his follow-up report after speaking to the source.
Counsel said this was a lead that was “squandered” and that if a solicitor was sent out to investigate and came back with such a report he would be “sent packing”.
Mr Marry said the garda did follow it up but the source changed his story and was no longer naming Mr Brady as loading cubes that night. He said the initial tip-off didn’t carry any weight.
Mr Justice Michael White apologised to the jury of six men and seven women for telling them that the prosecution evidence would end this week and asked them to return next week.