A man who shot dead a Kilkenny postmaster failed to overturn his murder conviction today.
Rejecting an attempt by Shu Shen (27), formerly of Old Rectory, New Ross, Co Wexford, to have the verdict made against him quashed, the Court of Criminal Appeal held it was “in no doubt” the conviction for murder was “safe”
The three judge appeal court said the Chinese national “brandished a gun” in the face of Alan Cunniffe (32) before fatally wounding him a short time later on December 8 2006.
Shen admitted killing the victim following a robbery at a post office at John's Green in Kilkenny. However, a plea to manslaughter was not accepted by the Director of Public Prosecutions and he was found guilty of murder by a jury at the Central Criminal Court in November 2008 and jailed for life.
Among the grounds of appeal argued by lawyers for Shen yesterday (Mon) were issues concerning the admissibility of certain forensic evidence and the “perverse verdict of the jury”.
The court heard that during the trial, the jury was told of ballistics evidence carried out on “a different weapon”, to that used in the fatal shooting.
Mr Michael O’Higgins SC, for Shen, told the CCA the modified air pistol used “broke up” and “disintegrated” when experts attempted to examine its capabilities.
The “differences between” these firearms “were significant” ,and the jury should have been told that this evidence was being put forward on a “probable level”.
The CCA, of Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman, Mr Justice Declan Budd and Mr Justice Daniel O’Keefe was also told that “a prima facie” case for murder had “not been made out” at the end of the prosecution evidence, in view of witness testimony and what the accused himself had said “from the beginning” that it “was an accident”.
Mr Shen was in court for today’s hearing. The proceedings were explained to him through an interpreter.
The State opposed the appeal. Counsel for the State said the jury was “fully aware” of the “infirmities” of the evidence concerning the firearms tests which were carried out. The appeal court was told the jury was under “no misapprehension” that the assessments involved “another gun”.
On the day of the murder, Shu Shen entered the post office and threatened the women behind the counter and demanded money. He put more than €13,000 in cash into a rucksack.
Alan Cunniffe arrived at the post office as Shen was leaving. Mr Cunniffe had taken over the running of the family business just two days previously. He chased after Shu Shen and tried to get the money back.
When Mr Cunniffe caught up with him and grabbed his bag, Shen shot him once in the stomach. The victim died in hospital four hours later.
In dismissing the appeal yesterday, the court said this was “an extremely tragic case” and that Mr Cunniffe was acting in protection of his “property and staff” when he pursued the “armed robber”.
The CCA said it was “unimpressed” by a “fanciful theory” related to the forensics, adding that it was “not necessary to treat” the jury as “gullible” and that the evidence of the scientists was put forward in both “a comprehensive” and “cautious” way.
The man’s conviction for murder was affirmed.