Wednesday 23 January 2019

Star witness in 'Champagne' Johnny murder trial handed immunity deal for evidence

A MAN involved in planning the murder of Johnny 'Champagne' Carroll more than two years ago was granted immunity from prosecution after he gave statements against four other men.

Joseph O'Brien (26) is now the chief prosecution witness in the trial of those men at the Central Criminal Court, where they are charged with murdering a father-of-three.

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

He was known as 'Champagne' Carroll because he was a qualified wine connoisseur and had worked at one time for Findlaters Wine Merchants.

Peter Kenny (28) of McCarthy's Terrace, Rialto; Christopher Zambra (35) of Galtymore Road, Drimnagh; Damien Johnston (27) of Cashel Avenue, Crumlin, and Bernard Hempenstall (26) from Park Terrace in The Coombe have pleaded not guilty to his murder.

Mr O'Brien agreed with Patrick Gageby, prosecuting, yesterday that he was arrested trying to leave Ireland shortly after the killing and made a series of statements to gardai.

"Quite a long time later, you were informed that you wouldn't be prosecuted," said Mr Gageby.

"Yeah. A couple of months ago I was told," he said.

He agreed that he was granted immunity in relation to his involvement in the events and circumstances surrounding the death of Mr Carroll.


He agreed that this was on the basis of any statements he gave in writing or orally and any evidence he would give in court.

He agreed that this immunity was "unconditional and irrevocable".

He had told the court that Kenny was the gunman and that Johnston had driven him to the scene on a motorbike, which Mr O'Brien said he was to burn.

Mr O'Brien agreed with Michael O'Higgins, defending Johnston, that he was a member of a murder team and that he knew what joint enterprise was.

But he said: "I'm not a murderer. I didn't murder anyone."

Mr Justice Barry White later asked him why he agreed that the two men on the motorbike were murderers but not himself.

"I know I was involved in it, but I didn't pull any trigger," he responded.

Mr O'Higgins asked him to turn around and look at the four defendants sitting behind him.

"They're sitting there on the basis of common design. You ought to be sitting there," said Mr O'Higgins. "On the basis of your confession, you ought to be serving life in prison."

Mr O'Brien had given evidence that he had driven Kenny to Harold's Cross to get the gun but was told to get off the motorbike in Crumlin, where Johnston got on.

He said he stood at a corner there for about eight minutes while Johnston and Kenny carried out the murder. He said it was a busy road, that he was wearing half a rain suit and holding his motorcycle helmet under his arm.

He could not explain why gardai could find nobody who had seen him there that night.

"You drove that bike to Grumpy Jack's, didn't you?" asked Mr O'Higgins.

"I didn't," replied the witness.

"You did, you know," responded Mr O'Higgins. "Your story is preposterous, nonsensical and an insult to intelligence."

He agreed that he had told lies in the past. He agreed that he had taken his brother's passport, committed crimes and given this brother's name. He agreed that this brother was then charged and a warrant was issued for his arrest when he didn't attend court.


He agreed that the gardai had an interest in him for about a decade, but didn't realise that "every cough and splutter" he made and every person he dealt with was recorded in their intelligence records.

He said the last time he had seen Kenny before the killing was years earlier when Kenny had a knife in his back. But he described Johnston as a friend.

Mr O'Brien will spend his third day in the witness box on Tuesday.


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