Yesterday, at the Central Criminal Court, the prosecution pieced together the words and actions of Wayne O’Donoghue from January 4 to his confession on January 16. They did this through fragments of conversations and observations recalled by friends, neighbours and gardaí, and a number of early statements that the accused made to the gardaí.
O’Donoghue, aged 21, of Ballyedmond, Midleton, Co Cork, admits manslaughter but denies murder of the 11-year-old.
Detective Sergeant Brian Goulding recalled being approached by the accused at a search control point in the East Cork golf club. “He stated to me in an aggressive manner that an hour’s daylight was being lost by the time everyone was briefed and deployed. I explained we had to brief gardaí and army before we briefed others. He was not happy with my reply. He turned and walked away.”
The detective said the accused returned to the control point a number of times and looked at the map to see what areas had been searched and were pencilled in for further searching.
Inspector Martin Dorney also described an occasion where Wayne O’Donoghue and his brother approached him on another occasion when the search had to be called off because of harsh weather. Wayne O’Donoghue complained that the search should continue elsewhere.
It was only 12 days after Robert’s death that he confessed to killing the boy. Hours after the death, Wayne O’Donoghue was phoning a friend, John Hutch jnr, and asking could he think of anywhere Robert could be.
Responding to a door to door questionnaire, the accused said that Robert called to his house at 2.15pm that day, and he filled in further details in a formal garda statement on January 5.
“At 2.15, I was returning home. Just after getting in the door home, Robert Holohan knocked at the front door. He asked me would I bring him to McDonald’s to get a chocolate milkshake. I said no. He said why? I said because traffic was too heavy. He got narky with me and said: ‘Don’t be such an asshole’. I was in a bit of a mood myself and I told him to f**k off.
“He said ‘fine’ and went off on his bike,” Wayne O’Donoghue said in his first formal statement.
Andrew O’Callaghan and a friend were involved in the search and they met Wayne O’Donoghue in a field. Mr O’Callaghan recalled that O’Donoghue asked if they thought Robert was dead or abducted. The replied that they thought he was abducted.
“He (O’Donoghue) said he had a fight with him the night he went missing. He said he was a neighbour. He said Robert came over and asked to bring him to McDonald’s. He said he couldn’t, he was studying. He said Robert was throwing stones at the window ... I clicked on to what he was saying. I said: ‘Did you kill him?’ He didn’t open his mouth after that,” Mr O’Callaghan said.
Tim Leahy was in his van during the search on January 12 a short time before Robert’s body was found. He said O’Donoghue was asking questions about the search.
“I thought if he was that interested he should have been on the search. It made me a bit uneasy, a bit uncomfortable,” Mr Leahy said. It was only afterwards he realised it was Wayne O’Donoghue.
Tom Deely, who was involved in the search with his friend, Martin Sloane, noticed a break in the briars and grass on top of a ditch. He looked down and saw a leg sticking up out of heavy briars. There was no shoe on the foot. Army officers and gardaí arrived and the scene was preserved.
A number of neighbours described seeing 11-year-old Robert a very short time before his death.
Mary Daly saw Robert at the entrance to his house, holding his bike between his legs. He waved at her as she drove past.
Róisín Bell was bringing her son to a birthday party. She saw Robert that day standing on his new BMX bike and trying to balance.
Liam Tully knew Robert well, as the deceased was friendly with two of her children.
“He was a very active and pleasant child. Someone who was very sociable,” he said.
Robert actually called to Mr Tully’s house at lunchtime on January 4 wondering where his children were. Mr Tully told him that they had gone pony riding.
“He was his usual happy self,” he added.
The case continues today.