Three men have been convicted and one acquitted of falsely imprisoning, beating and mutilating Quinn Industrial Holdings director Kevin Lunney.
Delivering the verdicts of the three-judge, non-jury court Mr Justice Tony Hunt on Monday said that the accused man known as YZ inflicted most of the injuries on Mr Lunney while his co-accused, Alan O'Brien and Darren Redmond, were involved in the kidnap and assault. The judge said that even if the court accepts that the fourth accused man, Luke O'Reilly, provided a bottle of bleach that was used by Lunney's attackers to destroy forensic evidence, it is reasonably possible that he did so without knowledge of what was happening to Mr Lunney.
He said that the offences were organised by Cyril McGuinness, a known criminal who is now deceased, and that McGuinness kept Mr O'Reilly separate from the men involved in the actual attack on Mr Lunney. He said Mr O'Reilly may have successfully transferred the bleach to YZ, adding that it is difficult to envisage the bleach arriving from any other source. But he said it is reasonably possible that he did so "without acquiring specific knowledge of what was going on."
He said the evidence "offers some support" to the argument made by Michael Lynn SC on behalf of Mr O'Reilly, that Mr O'Reilly did not know the specific reason why he was delivering bleach on behalf of Mr McGuinness.
Mr Justice Hunt added that the court's verdict of not guilty in relation to Mr O'Reilly is "not an endorsement of Mr O'Reilly's conduct".
Mr O'Reilly and members of his family, who supported him throughout the trial, cried when the verdict was read out and hugged one another as they left court.
Mr Justice Hunt also said it is "almost certain" that others not before the court were involved in the abduction, working as spotters or drivers for the principal offenders. He said not every detail of the crime can be known.
The court found that Alan O’Brien (40), of Shelmalier Road, East Wall, Dublin 3, Darren Redmond (27), from Caledon Road, East Wall, Dublin 3 and the man known as YZ are guilty of falsely imprisoning and intentionally causing serious harm to Mr Lunney at Drumbrade, Ballinagh, Co Cavan on September 17, 2019.
Mr O'Reilly, of Mullahoran Lower, Kilcogy, Co Cavan was found not guilty of the same charges.
There will be a sentencing hearing on October 22 in relation to the three convicted men.
In his testimony earlier this year Mr Lunney told prosecution counsel Sean Guerin SC that he was bundled into the boot of an Audi near his home and driven to a container where he was threatened and told to resign as a director of Quinn Industrial Holdings and to put a stop to litigation with which he was involved north and south of the border. His attackers stripped him to his boxer shorts, doused him in bleach, broke his leg with two blows of a wooden bat, beat him on the ground, cut his face and scored the letters QIH into his chest with a Stanley knife. They left him bloodied, beaten and shivering on a country road at Drumcoghill in Co Cavan where he was discovered by a man driving a tractor.
Mr Justice Hunt described Mr Lunney as a "most impressive witness" and said the court fully accepts the account given by him. His recollection of what happened to him, the judge said, had enabled gardai to identify the yard where he was beaten and ultimately the identity of his assailants. The judge said Lunney's account of how long he was trapped in the boot of the Audi and the length of time he was held at the yard in Drumbrade showed, "an uncanny ability to accurately estimate the passage of time even though his attackers removed his watch early on." His description of the yard where he was "beaten and mutilated" was borne out by the investigation, Justice Hunt added.
He said the court is also satisfied that what happened to Mr Lunney amounted to false imprisonment and assault causing serious harm. The medical evidence is "self-explanatory" he said, "and clearly reaches the threshold for serious harm." Mr Justice Hunt further indicated that the court is satisfied that Mr Lunney was assaulted in the blue horse box that gardai identified in a yard in Drumbrade, Co Cavan that was owned by Mr O'Reilly. Forensic investigators identified Mr Lunney's blood inside the horse box.
Mr Justice Hunt first detailed the evidence against YZ, saying that the court was convinced by many strands of evidence including CCTV footage showing YZ traveling from Dublin to Cavan in a Renault Kangoo van on the day of the abduction and the previous day, in what the court said was a "preparatory journey". He said the court had no doubt YZ was driving the van, which was in relevant places in Cavan at significant times during the preparation and carrying out of the abduction and assault. There was also, he said, the discovery by gardai of an e-flow motorway toll tag in YZ's home that belonged to the previous owner of the Audi A4 that the court accepted was the car used in the abduction.
He said there was sufficient evidence to show that YZ was "heavily involved before, during and after" the offences, adding that there was no doubt that he drove the Kangoo on both days. He was also, the judge said, the driver of the Audi that was used to remove Mr Lunney from his home and was responsible for "inflicting most of Mr Lunney's injuries."
The use of call data records as evidence, which was objected to by defence lawyers during the trial, did not affect the court's finding, Justice Hunt said. The CCTV evidence, he said, showing the movements of the Kangoo, was enough to establish YZ's involvement in the offences beyond a reasonable doubt. The phone records, he said, showed a pattern of contact with McGuinness and confirmed what the CCTV already showed. He said the phone records provide a "useful check" on the other available evidence and provide "certainty" to a verdict already established beyond a reasonable doubt.
When forensic scientist Dr Edward Connolly examined the Kangoo on October 31, 2019, he found Kevin Lunney's DNA in suspected blood staining on the inside, sliding door and Redmond's DNA on bars between the front and back seats. Mr Justice Hunt dismissed a suggestion that Mr Lunney's DNA was placed in the van some time in October 2019, saying that there was no need to plant Mr Lunney's DNA because the involvement of the Kangoo in the offences was already established by CCTV. He said the failure of forensic gardai on October 29 to find the area of blood staining that Dr Connolly identified two days later was the result of oversight and not the result of an "implausible, complicated, unnecessary plan to plant evidence."
He said any such finding would require that a person had access to a sample of Mr Lunney's blood, which the judge said is "far-fetched to say the least".
In relation to O'Brien, the judge said that his involvement in the preparatory journey was clear from CCTV which captured him with YZ in Dublin and Cavan. He said it is clear that O'Brien met YZ and Redmond on the morning of the offences and went into a car park near YZ's home from which the Renault Kangoo emerged a short time later, driven by YZ. He said it was not reasonably possible that O'Brien left the car park by some other means. It was suggested by O'Brien's counsel that he could have jumped over a 9 foot wall on one side of the car park or he could have left in a different car. Mr Justice Hunt pointed out that O'Brien did not mention either possibility to gardai when they asked him to account for his movements, having invoked statutory provisions that allow a court to draw inferences from anything that an accused person fails to say but later relies on in court. Mr Hunt said the court is satisfied that the man seen traveling in the Kangoo with YZ on the day of the offences was O'Brien and that he went to Cavan and took part in the abduction and assault.
In relation to Darren Redmond, the judge said he was satisfied that Mr Redmond's DNA was in the back of the Kangoo because he was in the Kangoo on the day of the offence. He said there was no evidence or suggestion of any other occasion when Redmond might have been in the van to deposit his DNA. He said that the evidence strongly supports the interpretation of CCTV footage on the day of the offence which, he said, showed Redmond going to the Kangoo with O'Brien and YZ.
The court was also satisfied that a phone belonging to Redmond travelled to Cavan in tandem with the Kangoo and was present at the yard in Drumbrade while Mr Lunney was being held against his will.
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