Debris came from accused’s car, court hears

Debris found at the scene of a hit and run in which a cyclist died, came from a vehicle driven by a 22-year-old man on trial in connection with the incident.

Debris came from accused’s car, court hears

The vehicle has not been found, a court heard yesterday.

Shane Fitzgerald, of Upper Knockeen, Knockduff, Meelin, Newmarket, Co Cork, has pleaded not guilty to dangerous driving causing the death of Paud O’Leary, aged 42, at Scrahanfadda, Gneeveguilla, Co Kerry, on July 1, 2012.

The trial began before Judge Thomas E O’Donnell and a jury at the Circuit Criminal Court in Tralee.

The late Mr O’Leary, a school caretaker and farmer, lay in a ditch for up to eight hours before being found, the court heard. He had been on a training spin for the Ring of Kerry Charity Cycle and met his death less than 2km from his home.

Opening the case, prosecuting counsel Tom Rice said the accused was the registered owner of a vehicle which did not remain at the scene. The 07-registered dark grey Toyota Land Cruiser had been tracked by CCTV from Killarney along the route to Gneeveguilla.

The previous evening, it was claimed, the accused had travelled from Newmarket to Killarney and joined friends in Scruffy’s Bar and the Danny Mann premises, remaining in the residents’ bar at the Eviston Hotel until 4.30am.

“It was a social occasion and alcohol was being consumed,” said Mr Rice.

“The jury will see alcohol being purchased and consumed and will see the effect of that alcohol.”

Paud O’Leary, Gneeveguilla, Co Kerry, died following a hit and run while he was

cycling between Gneeveguilla and Killarney.

The accused, having finished drinks, returned to his vehicle, parked in the railway station car park in Killarney, and left at 5am, travelling towards Kilcummin and Anablaha. At about 5.15am, he was seen on CCTV passing a premises at Gattabawn, near the crash scene, and there would also be CCTV footage from the Ballydesmond area, of Co Cork, at about 5.30am, after the collision had occurred.

Mr Rice said CCTV footage would form a “very important part” of the prosecution case.

He described Mr O’Leary as a long-distance cyclist who had gone to bed at 10 o’clock the previous evening and got up early to go training.

When he had not returned home by mid-morning, his wife and family became concerned and organised a search. At about 1.15pm, his body was recovered with the bicycle in a deep hedgerow, 16km from Killarney.

Mr Rice said debris was collected from the road, close to the gap in the hedge, for forensic examination. Evidence would be given that the debris came from the front right side of the land cruiser. He said examination of the bicycle showed the point of impact to be on its right side. Also, paint on Mr O’Leary’s hair was connected with the debris, while paint on his legs came from the bicycle.

An autopsy by Dr Margot Bolster, the assistant state pathologist, noted injuries to Mr O’Leary’s right side and found there had been an impact between the thigh and shin. As a result of the bicycle being thrown some distance, there were further injuries to the head and neck and such injuries were the cause of death.

Mr Rice also said the point of impact on the ground was in the Killarney-bound lane, along which Mr O’Leary had been travelling, while the vehicle had came from Killarney. Mr O’Leary, he claimed, was on the correct side and the vehicle on the incorrect side.

There was an extensive investigation and gardaí were anxious to examine the vehicle. They took steps to find the vehicle and the prosecution, he said, would suggest the failure to find it was “not without evidential significance”.

Mr Rice said there would be evidence the accused went to the UK just over 24 hours after the incident and applied for a visa to enter Australia. He obtained one and flew to Australia, “never to return to Ireland”.

Earlier, Mr Rice said the State was relying on circumstantial evidence and it would be important for the prosecution to align each strand of that evidence.

There are upwards of 140 prosecution witnesses, including gardaí, British and Australian police and representatives of Toyota Ireland and communications companies such as Eircom, Meteor, O2, and Vodafone, as well as P&O Ferries, Irish Ferries, and Stena Line.

The trial continues.

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