Hit-and-run suspect told Australian police he was not in traffic accident

A man suspected of being involved in a fatal hit-and-run accident in Co Kerry almost three years ago later told Australian police he had not been in a crash before going there.

An Australian policeman yesterday told of taking a statement from Shane Fitzgerald in which the accused said he left Ireland on July 2, 2012, and afterwards went to Australia.

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 occurred at around 5.15am and Mr O’Leary was thrown into a deep ditch in a collision with a vehicle which did not remain at the scene, according to the prosecution.

At the Circuit Criminal Court in Tralee, federal agent David James Blockley said he went with a colleague to a hostel outside Fremantle, in Western Australia, on October 23, 2013, where he met the accused, who had been working as a concreter.

He informed Mr Fitzgerald, who had a working holiday visa to July 2014, that he had received a request to assist the Irish police in their investigation into a traffic collision.

The accused had a vehicle similar to one suspected of being involved in the accident.

Mr Blockley, replying to Tom Rice, prosecuting, said he told the accused he had no powers to compel him to assist, but he could give a voluntary witness statement and was entitled to legal advice before assisting.

Mr Fitzgerald complied with the request to give a statement.

In the statement, he said he bought an 07-registered Toyota Land Cruiser in Dublin around Christmas 2011 for €13,000. He also owned a Volkswagen Passat.

Mr Fitzgerald said that he travelled to Killarney in the Land Cruiser, on July 1, 2012, at around midnight. He could not recall if anyone accompanied him on the journey. He met friends in Killarney pubs and maybe had just two beers because he was driving.

He said he drove back to Meelin at about 2am to 3am and went to bed. He had travelled through Ballydesmond and Scartaglin. He could not recall if anyone was with him on the journey of about 40 minutes, but knew he did not stop anywhere.

On July 2, he said, he left Ireland in his Passat, taking a ferry from Dublin to the UK.

He said he intended travelling to Australia but first planned to attend a couple of auctions.

He said he contacted a transport company to ship the Land Cruiser to Leeds. He sold it privately to an Englishman for £10,000 and used the money to go to Australia.

There was no damage to the vehicle when he sold it and it was “immaculate”, he said.

Mr Fitzgerald said he was not involved in any accident on the day prior to his departure and nobody else used the Land Cruiser in that time, to the best of his knowledge.

Cross-examined by Michael O’Higgins, defending, Mr Blockley said he was upfront with the accused and told him a vehicle similar to his had been involved in the accident under investigation.

The agent said he made no suggestion to the accused that he was a suspect.

The trial continues before Judge Thomas E O’Donnell and a jury.


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