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Sunday 24 June 2018

Confession letters bragging of teen girl's murder 'not reliable', court told

Daniel McDonnell was found guilty of the murder of Melanie McCarthy McNamara, with letters as evidence
Daniel McDonnell was found guilty of the murder of Melanie McCarthy McNamara, with letters as evidence

Letters written by a man apparently bragging about a murder were not reliable to safely convict him, his lawyers have told the Court of Appeal.

Daniel McDonnell (23), of Brookview Lawns in Tallaght, had pleaded not guilty to the murder of 16-year-old Melanie McCarthy McNamara at Brookview Way in Tallaght on February 8, 2012.

Melanie was shot in the head as she sat in a car with her boyfriend and his friend in Tallaght.

The trial heard that a stolen black Hyundai Santa Fe had pulled up alongside the car, in which Melanie was sitting in the back seat. A shot was discharged from the Hyundai and Melanie was hit in the head.

Graffiti

McDonnell was one of two men arrested on suspicion of murder the following week.

He maintained his right to silence in more than 20 garda interviews but daubed incriminating graffiti on his cell wall that included: "2 in the head. The b***h is dead ha ha…"

While detained in St Patrick's Institution, McDonnell continued to brag about his involvement, according to the prosecution, in two letters.

The first one, addressed to his cousin, included the lines: "If I get High Court bail I swear on my whole family, them four will be in the ground… Little did he know I had a loaded 12-guage. Left his b***h all over the Sunday World front page."

In the second letter, to his ex-girlfriend, he wrote: "That other thing wouldn't have happened if I'd known she was in the car. It was meant for that other smell bag. He won't get away with bullying my ma."

The then 19-year-old was unanimously found guilty by a jury and given the mandatory life sentence by Mr Justice Paul Carney on January 24, 2014.

McDonnell moved to appeal his conviction yesterday principally over the reliability of the letters.

His barrister, Bernard Condon SC, said the prosecution's case turned on the two letters, without which there wouldn't have been a prosecution.

Mr Condon said the letters should not have been admissible and, on their own, they did not meet the threshold for the case to go to a jury.

He said the letters were written by a 17-year-old on 23-hour lock-up, who had been on drugs since the age of 11, with personal circumstances which led him to be the type of person who might be a fantasist.

Counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions, Brendan Grehan SC, said the letters were "manifestly voluntary, lucidly written and structured". He said they were highly relevant.

Mr Justice George Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice Alan Mahon and Mr Justice John Edwards, said the court would reserve its judgment.

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