Shane Fitzgerald of Upper Knockeen, Knockduff, Meelin, Newmarket, Co Cork, appeared in custody before Tralee District Court yesterday. He had been arrested at Cork Airport on Monday. He had now spent a total of three weeks in custody, the court was told.
He is charged that on July 1, 2012, at Scrahanfadda, Gneeveguilla, Co Kerry, he drove dangerously thereby causing the death of 42-year-old father of four, Paudie O’Leary.
A watching brief was held by Killarney solicitor Padraig O’Connell for the O’Leary family, the court was told. Members of the family, including the late Mr O’Leary’s wife, Margaret, daughter, Shannon, aged 15, and his brother, Dermot, were in court for the proceedings.
David O’Meara, solicitor for Mr Fitzgerald, applied for bail, saying his client had already handed his passport to gardaí and would be willing to abide with all terms imposed.
He had no previous conviction and had no matter outstanding in this or any other jurisdiction. As this was an alleged traffic incident, his client was prepared not to drive. He had co-operated with gardaí, Mr O’Meara said.
The State objected to the bail application. Detective Sergeant Fergal Foley of Bandon Gardaí said the background was the defendant was before the court on an alleged fatal hit and run in which Paudie O’Leary had died.
The DPP had directed trial on indictment, the garda sergeant continued, and there was “very strong circumstantial evidence,” including eyewitness, mobile phone, forensic and CCTV evidence, Sgt Foley told Inspector Tony Sugrue.
Within 23 hours of the incident Mr Fitzgerald had boarded a ferry to Britain and in the following days had obtained a visa to Australia “It’s my firm belief that if granted bail he will not stand trial,” the sergeant said.
Mr O’Meara, solicitor, objected to the use of the terms ‘flee and fled’ by Inspector Sugrue, saying this was “prejudicial” to Mr Fitzgerald. Mr Fitzgerald, who took the stand, said he had no matters pending any where and would not flee.
He was unaware gardaí were anxious to talk to him in 2012 until he had arrived in Perth, Australia. He had plans to go to Australia and had applied for his passport in June 2012. At one stage in Perth he got a message saying the gardaí no longer wished to speak to him.
He had arrived in Britain this January and had been visiting trade shows before intending to come to Ireland, but his employer in Perth had asked him to return urgently and he wanted to keep his job. He had now lost his job.
Judge James O’Connor refused bail and remanded Mr Fitzgerald in custody to Cork district court on March 19, extending time for the book of evidence.