Partner breaks down as trial hears murdered man had no connection with feuding gangs

Partner breaks down as trial hears murdered man had no connection with feuding gangs
The scene of the late Mr Kirwan's shooting

by Alison O’Riordan

The murder of Noel ‘Duck Egg’ Kirwan arose from a "notorious feud" between two criminal factions but the deceased had no connection with either side, a prosecution barrister has told the Special Criminal Court.

A photo of Noel Kirwan (62) pictured beside his “long-time” friend Gerry ‘The Monk’ Hutch was used by several newspapers in the lead-up to his death, the court heard.

Mr Kirwan was sitting in a car outside his house at St Ronan’s Drive, Clondalkin, Dublin 22 on December 22nd, 2016 when he was shot several times. His partner Bernadette Roe was in the passenger seat but was not injured in the shooting.

Jason Keating (27), of Lower Main Street, Rush, Co Dublin went on trial this afternoon at the three-judge court accused of murdering Mr Kirwan. When arraigned before the non-jury court, Mr Keating stood up and pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr Kirwan on that date.

It is the prosecution's case that a 'Gotek’ tracking device was put under Mr Kirwan's car in the weeks leading up to his killing and this can be linked to the accused.

Ms Bernadette Roe, partner of Mr Kirwan, gave evidence today that she had lived at St Ronan’s Drive in Clondalkin for the past 38 years. She knew Noel “all her life” as their fathers worked in the docks together. Ms Roe agreed that Noel was called ‘Duck Egg’ and she began a relationship with him six years before he died.

Ms Roe said Noel moved in with her soon after they got together and said she was not aware that her partner had difficulties with anyone.

She said her niece invited them to a restaurant on Sundrive Road in Crumlin on the afternoon of December 22 and Mr Kirwan drove them there in his new car. “He was driving a BMW before but it was costing us too much to tax,” she said.

Ms Roe said Noel was the happiest she had seen him in ages and she remembered him admiring the Christmas lights at the back of their house in Clondalkin when they pulled up at 5.05pm. She testified that she heard a bang but thought it was someone breaking a window.

The witness said she initially thought another person had smashed the window in but soon realised it was not him. Noel told her he had been shot and his head then hit hers, she said, beginning to sob.

Ms Roe said she ran from the car and saw the gunman jump into the side of a white van as it drove away.

“I screamed for help, I couldn’t go back to him (Noel),” she said.

The witness testified that she was concerned about an article which appeared in a newspaper before Christmas, it read “Kinahan thugs smash up house of the Monk’s friend”. Ms Roe agreed with prosecution counsel Paul Greene SC that while the piece did not name her partner Noel, it concerned a domestic family issue and was not caused by the feud.

Ms Roe also agreed with Mr Greene that Noel had previously been photographed at a funeral with his friend Gerry Hutch.

Gerry Hutch
Gerry Hutch

“Everyone from the community went to the funeral, if he (Noel) had taken two steps forward he would not have been photographed,” she said.

Under cross-examination by Michael Bowman SC, defending, Ms Roe agreed that Noel was photographed because “somebody else” was beside him and the newspapers "did not have the decency" to take him out of the picture.

Earlier in his opening address, prosecuting counsel Paul Greene SC said the deceased was christened Christopher Kirwan but he was known all his life as ‘Noel’.

Mr Greene said the court will hear evidence that Mr Kirwan had been in a relationship for several years with Bernadette Roe and they were living together at St Ronan’s Drive. He had grown up in the north inner city in the earlier part of his life. Mr Kirwan was a widower and had a number of children, he added.

The day of the killing was an "unremarkable day", the court heard, and a family friend had offered to treat Mr Kirwan and Ms Roe to a meal in Montos restaurant in Crumlin. Mr Kirwan drove himself and his partner to the restaurant before returning to their home that evening.

The barrister said the court will hear evidence that an assailant armed with a Makarov firearm discharged six shots into Mr Kirwan as he was parking his new car, a Ford Mondeo, at St Ronan’s Drive at 5.07pm. Mr Kirwan was pronounced dead at 6.38pm by a doctor who arrived at the scene.

Counsel told the court that Mr Kirwan had been the subject of a small amount of media attention when he was identified in a press photo some time earlier in the company of his "long-time" friend Gerry Hutch. They had grown up together in the same area, he added.

It appeared Mr Kirwan’s death arose from the notorious feud between two criminal factions, Mr Greene said, but the deceased had no connection with either faction.

Mr Greene said the evidence will be that gardai immediately responded to an emergency call and were met by Ms Roe and her neighbours. A number of shell casings were recovered in the immediate aftermath of the incident, the court heard, but the interest of the investigation turned to a ‘Gotek’ tracking device which was affixed to the undercarriage of Mr Kirwan’s car.

This device was found by gardai on the day after the shooting and its contents were downloaded by a garda expert, Mr Greene said, who the court will hear evidence from in due course. "It gave the GPS history of the tracking device’s movements for a significant period of time,” he said.

The barrister said this tracker was powered up at a location in the vicinity of central London in October 2016 and thereafter in the city of Calais in France. By October 18 it was pinging in Leeds and two days later it pinged at Holyhead in Wales before arriving in Dublin port. On November 3 it was pinging in Dublin 1 and by that evening it was positioned in Crumlin and later in Sandyford.

There will be evidence, Mr Greene said, that by November 8 the device was positioned at St Ronan’s Drive in Clondalkin, very close to Mr Kirwan’s home.

The deceased owned a BMW at the time and the device tracked the “known movements” of Mr Kirwan and his car between November 8 and December 13.

The court will also hear evidence, he said, that Mr Kirwan traded in his BMW for a Ford Mondeo on December 13. On this date the tracker pinged from a car sales address in Clondalkin which is of “some significance,” said Mr Greene.

He also indicated that gardai established in the course of their investigation that the BMW car was moved to a car dealership in Naas and the tracker device pinged from there until December 20.

The court heard there will be further evidence that the device was moved on December 20 and by December 21 it was again pinging at St Ronan’s Drive in Clondalkin.

The barrister further stated that Mr Kirwan's family members will give evidence of their recollection of the deceased's movements around that time.

CCTV footage, the court heard, will show that a Renault Megane car was captured entering Merlin Car Auctions on December 20. An investigation was undertaken as to the ownership of that car, Mr Greene said, and it will be established that the previous registered owner of the car was Jason Keating.

The court will also see CCTV footage of Ashleaf Shopping Centre in Crumlin and Neilstown Shopping Centre which are close to the scene of the shooting, said counsel.

Mr Greene told the three judges that the court will hear the assailant used a white Peugeot van with a sliding door and it was later found burnt out.

The phone evidence will become significant when it is “threaded together” with other evidence as well as an exhibit which connects Mr Keating with a phone handset.

Mr Greene said the court will see CCTV footage minutes after Mr Kirwan was shot as well as evidence from forensic imaging experts showing “clearly identifiable” clothing of a man.

He explained that the State’s case would be a circumstantial one.

The trial resumes tomorrow before Mr Justice Tony Hunt, presiding, sitting with Judge Sinead Ni Chualachain and Judge Cormac Dunne. It is expected to last four weeks.

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