‘Criminals can no longer hide behind hired gunmen’

Limerick crime boss John Dundon should be at least 50 by the time he is freed having received a life sentence for the murder of innocent man Shane Geoghegan in a case of mistaken identity which shocked the nation.

‘Criminals can no longer hide behind hired gunmen’

Local politicians hailed the verdict, with Cllr John Gilligan — who was mayor of Limerick at the time of the murder in 2008 — saying crime leaders could “no longer hide behind hired gunmen”.

Fianna Fáil TD Willie O’Dea, then defence minister, said there had been a feeling “things were getting out of control” after the murder and said the verdict showed that “the representative of law and order are in control”.

Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan said the verdict of the non-jury Special Criminal Court “endorses the capacity of the State to deal with the most serious and difficult criminal cases”.

The conviction was secured on the evidence of three former gang accomplices, supported by independent evidence, including a mobile phone handed over by rival gang figure Philip Collopy and CCTV footage.

After the verdict, John Dundon, prisoner ID number 1850, was brought back to Portlaoise Prison, where he will celebrate his 31st birthday on Monday week.

He joins three other brothers in jail, including Dessie, 29, who is serving a life sentence for murder, also in Portlaoise. Wayne Dundon, 35, is serving six years and Ger, 25, is serving five years, both in Cloverhill Prison, Dublin.

The conviction brings to around 60 the number of Limerick gang members jailed in a Garda crackdown and follows a massive drop in shootings in the city (from 103 in 2007 to seven in 2012) and the absence of a gangland murder in the past 19 months.

The Irish Prison Service said the average length of imprisonment for murder was 17-and-a-half years a couple of years ago and that it had probably increased.

However, prison sources said this did not mean Dundon would be out then and it was possible he would serve for longer.

Counsel for Dundon yesterday said they would be appealing the verdict and claimed they had new evidence which they hoped to bring in any appeal.

Dundon, of Hyde Rd, Limerick, listened to loud hip hop music on headphones while the judgment was being read out.

Mr Geoghegan, a well-liked rugby player, was going home to his girlfriend Jenna Barry at Clonmore, Kilteragh, Dooradoyle, on Nov 9, 2008, when he was shot five times by Barry Doyle.

The Dublin criminal had been ordered to target the victim’s neighbour, John “Pitchfork” McNamara. Doyle was convicted last year of the actual murder.

Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns said the evidence pointed “overwhelmingly” to the guilt of John Dundon. He said the court accepted the credibility of the three main prosecution witnesses: April Collins, a former girlfriend of Ger Dundon; her sister Lisa Collins; and her boyfriend Christopher McCarthy, a first cousin of the Dundons.

He said that while they were accomplices, the court accepted the “truthfulness and accuracy” of their testimonies, which were supported by independent corroborative evidence.

Commenting on April Collins’ evidence, the judge said: “That testimony places the accused John Dundon in a central role in the planning, direction and arrangements for the crime in question.”

Mr Justice Kearns said April Collins was “plainly terrified of the accused” when giving evidence and “now lived in fear for her life and was under Garda protection 24/7”.

The victim’s girlfriend, his mother Mary, brother Anthony and uncle Tony, declined to comment after and simply said in court through prosecution counsel Tom O’Connell SC that the “facts of the case speak for itself”.

Brendan Nix SC, for Dundon, said his client deeply regretted how Mr Geoghegan lost his life, but maintained his innocence and insisted he had “no hand, act or part” in the murder.

John Devane, Dundon’s solicitor, said they would be lodging an appeal and hoped to bring new evidence to it.

What the judgement said:

The judgement in the John Dundon case ran to 84 pages and reveals the difficulties the court faced in evaluating the evidence of key witnesses, all of whom had close ties to Dundon and his associates and helped cover up Shane Geoghegan’s murder.

“This case is all about credibility. While that may be said of many criminal cases, it is particularly true in this case where all the principal suspects and those suspected of having information were closely associated and involved with each other at the time of Shane Geoghegan’s murder in November 2008.”

“Gangland rules of “silence in all circumstances” usually prevail in the aftermath of a serious crime where such persons, or one or more of them come under suspicion of involvement in it. Such attitudes create serious difficulties for the gardaí in the investigation of crime and serious problems and risks for any member of such a group who afterwards leaves the group and decides to come forward as a witness against his or her former associates.”

“The Court is of the view that it should treat the main prosecution witnesses as accomplices for the purposes of evaluating their evidence in this case. She [April Collins] did not avail of the opportunity to warn the gardaí of the intended killing, albeit she said in evidence she would have been killed herself had she done so.”

“The Court agrees with Mr Nix [defence counsel], as already indicated in its analysis, that the behaviour of April Collins on the night of 8th November, 2008, was reprehensible.”

“Plainly terrified of the accused, she [April Collins] was nonetheless steadfast in her account of what was said and what was done. She did not present herself as some sort of innocent and admitted to her own wrongdoings in the past and provided explanations when asked why she said and did certain things. She said she now lived in fear for her life and was under garda protection 24/7.”

“The only evidence to contradict that offered by April Collins was that of Liam Casey, a witness whom the Court found to be utterly unworthy of belief. Such evidence as he gave was perfunctory and evasive. His demeanour when giving it did not inspire confidence or convey to the Court that the witness was telling the truth, indeed the opposite was the impression conveyed.”

“With regard to Lisa Collins and Christopher McCarthy, the Court would be of the view that they should, for the purposes of the Court’s approach to this case, be likewise treated as accomplices.”

“Lisa Collins herself did not come forward to make a statement until October 2012. In the aftermath of the killing, Christopher McCarthy was arrested, but met all questions by stating to the gardaí that he had been advised by his solicitor to say nothing.”

“The Court must be mindful of the desirability of having independent corroborative evidence to support the evidence offered by the three main prosecutions witnesses in this trial. That is not to say that the Court cannot convict without such evidence if it finds the evidence of these witnesses to be credible, but rather that it must be cautious in that regard, always bearing in mind that it would be dangerous to accept the evidence of such witnesses without such corroboration.”

“The Court is thus satisfied, that, even treating the main prosecution witnesses as accomplices to the killing of Shane Geoghegan, but nonetheless refusing to treat the evidence of any single one of them as corroborative of the other, the truthfulness and accuracy of each individual account may be accepted as truthful and accurate by the Court, supported as each individual account is by independent supportive evidence of a corroborative nature. That evidence, taken as a whole, points overwhelmingly to the guilt of John Dundon of the offence with which he stands charged.”

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