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Tuesday 13 November 2018

Body-in-suitcase victim wired €52,000 to man accused of his murder

Murder victim Kenneth O’Brien
Murder victim Kenneth O’Brien

Kenneth O'Brien transferred more than €52,000 into murder accused Paul Wells's bank account over the space of 18 months before he was killed, a jury has heard.

Mr O'Brien had been working in Australia when he sent the money, mostly through a foreign exchange service, to Mr Wells.

The Central Criminal Court also heard that Mr O'Brien told his boss he could not go to an arranged job in Limerick the day before he went missing because he "had to look after some business".

The next day, his torso was found stuffed into a suitcase in the Grand Canal. Mr Wells (50), of Barnamore Park, Finglas, has pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr O'Brien at that address between January 15 and 16, 2016.

Struggled

He admitted to gardai that he shot him dead but said it happened when they struggled during a row after Mr O'Brien turned up at his home with a gun.

The accused claimed Mr O'Brien (33) had wanted to have his own partner, Eimear Dunne, murdered and Mr Wells refused to kill her.

He said that after he shot Mr O'Brien, he "panicked" and dismembered the remains, which were later found in a suitcase and shopping bags in the canal in Co Kildare.

Mr O'Brien was "an exceptional worker in every respect," a former employer, Declan Porter, said in evidence yesterday.

He kept in touch with Mr O'Brien when he went to work in Australia in 2013.

He agreed with prosecutor Sean Gillane SC that he was aware Mr O'Brien was seeing someone in Australia but he "wouldn't delve into his private affairs".

He thought Mr O'Brien had said he was coming home to stay in 2016, but added: "I wasn't sure he was going to come back."

In the week that he returned, Mr Porter asked Mr O'Brien if he would come back to work with him and he "wasn't sure what he was going to do".

He told the jury that Mr O'Brien was due to go to a job arranged in Limerick on January 12 and 13, 2016.

This was rearranged for January 15 but the day before, Mr Porter received a call from Mr O'Brien "saying that he wouldn't be able, that he had to look after some business".

That was the last time he spoke to him.

Mr Porter agreed with Michael O'Higgins SC, defending, that Mr O'Brien had showed him some photos of "an African girl he was apparently doing a line with". This was in 2014 or 2015.

Garda Superintendent Gerard Wall said one of the early lines of inquiry related to the transfer of money to Ireland by Mr O'Brien while he was in Australia.

He sought evidence from a number of bank accounts: Mr O'Brien's Permanent TSB account; his account at the Ulster Bank Mortgage Centre; an AIB account of Lorraine Leeson (Mr O'Brien's aunt); his father Gerard O'Brien's AIB account; a PTSB account of Eimear Dunne; and the accused's credit union account.

Withdrawals

The court heard that Mr O'Brien had transferred €52,000 "and change" into Mr Wells's account over 18 months .

Garda John Faherty said €47,900 of this was through a foreign exchange company called Currency Fair.

In addition, a total of €8,000 was transferred to Gerard O'Brien, €2,700 to Lorraine Leeson, €23,982 to Eimear Dunne, and more than €11,000 to Mr O'Brien's own account.

Yvonne Traynor, of PTSB Crime and Loss Prevention, told the jury of a series of bank withdrawals totalling tens of thousands of euro that the accused made in December 2015 and January 2016.

These were up to €5,000 at a time, with further withdrawals from an ATM minutes later.

The trial continues.

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