Garda joked with accused over shovel

A GARDA spotted a shovel in a car and jokingly asked the driver if it was for burying a body — the driver is now on trial for murder.

Garda Daniel O’Connor did not realise until he returned to the same scene hours later that the victim’s body was on marshy ground over a ditch.

Garda O’Connor saw a black Opel Astra on the road at Ardcullen, Ballyduff, Co Kerry, on November 6, 2008, with Gillian Purcell in the passenger seat and John Walsh at the side of the car.

Garda O’Connor said Walsh got back in and drove away but he followed in the Garda car flashing the blue lights for him to stop. Questioned at the scene about what he was doing there, Walsh replied: “Guard, I was only bursting for a piss.”

Garda O’Connor looked over a ditch and saw a few black bags of rubbish and in the distance to his left, he saw what looked like a bundle of clothes.

It was only hours later when he returned to the scene that he found it was the body of a man, later identified as the remains of John McManus.

Walsh, 45, of Cork Street, Mitchelstown, Co Cork, and Purcell, aged 34, of Simon, Anderson’s Quay, Cork, formerly of Hollyhill, Cork, both deny the charge of murdering Mr McManus on a date unknown between October 28 and November 7, 2008, at flat 1, 3 Verdon Place, Wellington Road, Cork.

Earlier when Garda O’Connor was questioning Walsh at the scene, he searched the car and found a new shovel with a price sticker and plastic over it.

“I was joking; I said, ‘were you going to bury someone with that?’ Jokingly. (Walsh replied) ‘No guard, sure that shovel is brand new.’”

When Walsh was walking around outside the car, his knees were bending and he was staggering, the garda said, adding: “His eyes were popping out of his head. He seemed to be high on drugs.”

Walsh handed his driving licence to the garda, bearing his name and an address at Carrigmore Park, Ballinlough. Purcell, when asked her name, replied Annmarie Corcoran and gave two addresses, one in Hollyhill and one in Tralee.

Garda O’Connor later went to Gurranabraher Garda Station where Purcell was being questioned and he identified her as the passenger in the car with Walsh.

When examining the car that day in Kerry, Garda O’Connor found a patch of blood in the boot. Walsh said it was from fishing a month earlier and there were fishing rods in the boot also. However, the garda said that did not tally with the fact that Walsh had told him moments earlier that he had only bought the car a week ago. Walsh then said the blood from fishing must have been from a week ago.

While the car was seized, Walsh was not arrested that day and neither was Purcell.

Sergeant David O’Regan said he spent six days forensically examining the blood-stained flat where the late Mr McManus was living.

Sgt O’Regan found two palm-prints on adjacent walls in the hallway suggesting what he described as a very sustained altercation having taken place there.

“The carpet was heavily stained. It appeared from my observation that that palm mark, whoever left that palm mark, was over where a full tooth and partial tooth were found. Whoever left that second palm mark was over where the second full tooth was found.”

The case before Mr Justice Paul Carney and the jury at the Central Criminal Court sitting in Cork continues.

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