Accused ‘messier’ than drunk friends

Family of the late cyclist Paud O'Leary, including his wife Maggie and daughter Shannon, arrive at the Circuit Criminal Court in Tralee,Co Kerry yesterday. Picture: Don MacMonagle

Friends of a 23-year-old man suspected of being involved in a fatal hit and run told yesterday of drinking with him into the early hours, on the day of the incident.

One told of seeing Shane Fitzgerald slouched over a bar in a hotel. Another agreed he was “messier” than others in the group.

Mr Fitzgerald, aged 23, of Upper Knockeen, Knockduff, Meelin, Newmarket, Co Cork, denies dangerous driving causing the death of cyclist Paud O’Leary, at Scrahanfadda, Gneeveguilla, Co Kerry, on July 1, 2012.

The crash is believed to have occurred at around 5.15am, and the body of Mr O’Leary, a father of four, was discovered eight hours later, in a ditch during a search.

The Circuit Criminal Court in Tralee, Co Kerry, heard how around a dozen people from the north Cork area were drinking in the residents’ lounge of Eviston House Hotel, Killarney, on July 1, after earlier visiting other licensed premises locally.

Some testified that they had booked into the hotel and were in the residents’ lounge from around 2.30am.

Cian O’Keeffe, of Newmarket, said he and some friends arrived in Killarney by train at 6.30pm, on June 30, and had drinks in several premises.

He was shown some CCTV stills from Eviston House Hotel, taken between 3am and 5am, in which he identified Mr Fitzgerald, who was wearing a white shirt with his arms around the witness.

Replying to Tom Rice, prosecuting, the witness said he could see the accused at the bar with a pint bottle of Bulmers cider. He was slouched over the bar with his head down.

During cross-examination by Brian McInerney, defending, Mr O’Keeffe agreed he had consumed a “serious amount of drink” on the night and that his recollection of events was “hazy and patchy”.

DJ O’Connor, Ballydesmond, Co Cork, said he was shown photographs by a garda and, from them, identified a man asleep at the counter as Mr Fitzgerald.

Caroline Kelly, Newmarket, was also in the residents’ lounge and had conversation with the accused. She agreed he “was messier than the rest” and was very drunk. She went to bed around 4.30am and did not know where the accused went. She told Mr McInerney she had a lot to drink.

Gerry Kelleher, night porter, said he was serving alcohol to residents on the night. Having been shown photographs, he recalled serving three pint bottles of cider to a tall man, more than 6ft in height and wearing jeans and a white shirt, between 2.39am and 4.17am. He said the man, who was with a large group, fell while trying to sit on a chair at about 4.25am. The man was “excessively drunk”.

Another barman, also shown CCTV stills, gave evidence of serving him two pint bottles of cider at different times after 3am and saw him asleep at the bar at 3.39am.

Security man Seamus Finnegan said he saw a man in a white shirt leaving the hotel some time later. The man left the door open; Mr Finnegan said he “gave out” to him for that.

The trial continues.


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