Accident fraud trial hears car was 'never' involved in accident

A professional motor assessor has told the Ir£151,000 fraud conspiracy trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court that a Rover car he examined was never involved in a traffic accident.

A professional motor assessor has told the Ir£151,000 fraud conspiracy trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court that a Rover car he examined was never involved in a traffic accident.

Mr Barry McCarthy said he and Garda Aidan Loughnane, the public service vehicle inspector (PSV) in Wexford, jointly examined a green Rover 620 there on April 8, 1997 and found it to be in "excellent condition" with no signs of damage.

Mr McCarthy, who was a serving Garda sergeant and PSV for 25 years in Waterford and Kilkenny at the time, said both front and rear windscreens were the originals with the vehicle identification number (VIN) sandblasted into them.

Both Mr McCarthy and Gda Loughnane said that a Rover car with the same registration plate number, 96W506, which they were shown in photographs was certainly not the same vehicle. A document listing substantial impact damage to this car could not refer to the vehicle they examined.

Earlier, Mr Martin Harte, an assessor for Guardian PMPA (now Axa) told the jury he had been shown a Rover car at Michael Byrne Motors in Longford which he described as "a write-off".

Mr Harte told Mr George Birmingham SC, prosecuting, he took photographs of this vehicle and listed all the damage he found on it. He assessed it as having a £19,000 pre-accident value but only £1,250 salvage value at this time.

Mr Paul Regan, a staff engineer with the Automobile Association, also examined the Rover car, 96W506, in Wexford on May 26, 1977 and found its bodywork free of any damage.

Mr Regan said an electronic paint thickness gauge further indicated this Rover was not involved in any major impact and the Rover in the photographs taken by Mr Harte in the Longford garage could not be the same vehicle.

The jury heard the evidence in the continuing trial of retired garda, Mr Desmond McGonigle (aged 58), of Knockvicar, Boyle, Co Roscommon, and Mr James Murphy (aged 44), a lorry driver, of Main Street, Castlebellingham, Co Louth.

They deny involvement in a conspiracy to defraud the Guardian / PMPA by falsely pretending a traffic accident occurred at Annaduff, Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim on January 28, 1996.

The prosecution has described it as "a dramatic accident that never happened" between a Rover car and a Scania truck which towed a lowloader carrying a Scania tractor unit and a Hyster forklift.

The jury has been told the accused are alleged to have conspired together and with others including businessman Mr Michael Byrne of Sligo Road, Longford; Mr Michael McDonald, Riverstown, Dundalk, a director of Portfleet Ltd, owners of the Scania transporter, driven by Mr Murphy; and Mr Jeremiah O’Donovan, of Fairview Terrace, Birr, who was the Rover driver.

Mr Terry Power, a Waterford garage proprietor, said he agreed to sell a Rover 620 demonstration model to Mr Byrne at Michael Byrne Motors for £20,000 in May 1995. Mr Byrne said he wanted it for his wife but returned it to him in the same condition some months later with 2,000 miles done.

Mr Power told Mr Birmingham (with Mr Sean Guerin BL) he was never paid by Mr Byrne for the car but had not been concerned about his money because he also owed money to Michael Byrne Motors for vehicles he bought.

He said he later sold this Rover car, 96W506, for £17,000 to a County Wexford businessman and also received between £1,500 and £2,000 from Mr Byrne for his use of it.

Mr Power identified an invoice for the sale of the Rover to Mr Byrne which was made out in his own handwriting to Mr O’Donovan of Birr at Mr Byrne’s request.

Mr Michael Hall, a motor assessor, described his examination on behalf of Cornhill Insurance of a Rover 620 in Celbridge, County Kildare in late July 1996. Only the front one-third of it was available and he found it had been totally immersed in water so that it could not possibly be driven.

Retired Detective Garda Michael Maguire told the jury he had received information that the front portion of a Rover 620 had been found by the roadside at Maynooth. A computer search based on the chassis number established it was registered as 95D2149.

He recovered a petrol receipt, an Andrew Lloyd Webber tape and an Automobile Association card from it and got statements from the owner as well as the driver when it went into the canal.

Mr Maguire agreed with Ms Mary Ellen Ring SC (with Ms Caroline Cummings BL), for Mr Murphy, that he couldn’t say how long the car had been immersed in water.

Mr Michael Glover, an automotive engineer, said that on October 23, 1997 he met gardaí who told him they were investigating an accident involving a Rover car, registration number 96W506.

He was given two ‘Polaroid’ photos of a damaged Rover and also photographs which had been taken by an assessor of a Rover car after it had overturned and ended up in a canal with the request to ascertain if it was the same vehicle in both sets of pictures.

Mr Glover said he focussed on a distortion in the roof area and prepared a grid, both vertical and horizontal, on which he plotted the detail. His examination indicated that the vehicle in both sets of photographs was identical. This opinion was supported by other "points of significance" he found.

Witness agreed with Ms Ring that he couldn’t say how the damage came about. He hadn’t seen any car and his report was based on his study of the photographs.

The hearing continues before Judge Joseph Matthews and a jury of four women and seven men.

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