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I had nothing to hide -- detective in murder interview

A retired detective super-intendent has insisted he has "nothing to hide" about his role in the questioning of a murder suspect.

PJ Browne was being cross- examined about a suspect, who has been granted immunity in exchange for testifying against the four defendants on trial at the Central Criminal Court for the murder of John 'Champagne' Carroll.

He told the court, "I had nothing to hide" when a defence counsel asked him about an interview held off camera.

Father-of-two Bernard Hempenstall (28) from Park Terrace, The Coombe; Peter Kenny (28) of McCarthy's Terrace, Rialto; Damien Johnston (27) of Cashel Avenue, Crumlin; and Christopher Zambra (35) of Galtymore Road, Drimnagh have all pleaded not guilty to murdering a father-of-three in a Dublin pub.

John Carroll (33) was shot dead while socialising in Grumpy Jack's Pub in the Coombe just after 9.30pm on February 18, 2009.

In evidence yesterday, Mr Browne agreed with Michael O'Higgins, defending Damien Johnston, that he should have video recorded his interviews with a fifth suspect, Joseph O'Brien, who admitted being heavily involved in the killing but was never charged.

"I didn't do what I was supposed to do," said Mr Browne, agreeing that the law required that interviews with suspects should be recorded on camera.

"I didn't comply with regulations while Joseph O'Brien was in custody," he said.

The court had already heard that when Mr O'Brien was arrested at Dublin Port two nights after the killing, he asked for a private meeting with the detective.


Instead of being brought to an interview room as would usually be the case, he was taken to Mr Browne's office in Pearse Street Garda Station.

"It's not up to the citizen to opt out of the statutory requirements, is it? The citizen in custody doesn't call the shots and request private meetings with the guards, do they?" asked Mr O'Higgins. "They don't," replied Mr Browne. Mr O'Higgins asked him what a private meeting meant. "I took it that he wanted to see me off camera," explained Mr Browne.

Mr O'Higgins asked what would be wrong with telling O'Brien that he would be treated like every other murder suspect, be taken to an interview room, receive legal advice and be interrogated by gardai.

"Nothing," replied Mr Browne.

"How many other murder suspects can get private meetings with the top man and bring about a situation where they're never charged with such a terrible crime?" asked the barrister.

"I'm not aware," answered Mr Browne.

Mr Browne said that Mr O'Brien wouldn't tell the gardai anything until the Witness Protection Programme was explained to him, but he did not agree with Mr O'Higgins that the suspect was "laying down terms and conditions".

He agreed that Mr O'Brien was brought to his office again the following morning for another private meeting.

"He wanted to speak to me in private again," he explained.

"This is the most farcical aspect of your testimony, that the murderer gets to dictate how it's done," said Mr O'Higgins. "Maybe you were more anxious to stay off camera than he was," suggested the barrister.

"I had nothing to hide," replied Mr Browne.

When asked, Mr Browne explained that the video recording of interviews was brought into law to protect both prisoner and garda, following allegations of improper conduct.

"I don't think Joseph O'Brien is making any allegations against me," he added.

"But Mr O'Brien's account of what happened is completely at variance with yours," said Mr O'Higgins, pointing out that Mr O'Brien said the gardai introduced the topic of the Witness Protection Programme and only after he had given his statement.

Mr O'Higgins put it to him that they began recording the interviews after "the story was got straight". Mr Browne said he did not like that use of words.

The trial continues.