Witness has difficulty remembering alleged attempted murder incident

The jury in the trial of a man accused of attempted murder has heard from a second witness who has said they had difficulty remembering the incident.

The jury in the trial of a man accused of attempted murder has heard from a second witness who has said they had difficulty remembering the incident.

Sandra Clinton told the Central Criminal Court that she was in total shock after witnessing a shooting in Drogheda two and a half years ago and couldn’t really remember what happened.

Albert Byrne (aged 41) of Castlemanor, Ballymakenny Road, Drogheda, denies attempting to murder Robert McDonnell (aged 25) at Moneymore, Drogheda on September 14, 2006. He also pleaded not guilty to discharging a firearm, and possession of a firearm and ammunition with intent to endanger life.

Ms Clinton said she was at traffic lights when she heard shots and saw Mr McDonnell’s car pull out followed by a red Toyota. She told Conor Devally SC, prosecuting, that she the driver of the red car holding a gun.

She agreed that she said in her statement to gardaí that there were two other men in the red car but said: “I was in shock, I can’t remember, a lot has happened in my life in the last two years”. She told the court that she could not identify the driver of the red car.

Ms Clinton agreed that she made a statement to gardaí in her home that evening. She was shown a handwritten memo and agreed that her signature appeared at the bottom of it.

Mr Devally read out the statement, which said that she had stopped at lights, heard three shots and saw Mr McDonnell, a good friend, driving away holding the door of his car closed.

The statement said he was followed by a red Toyota Avensis and the driver was holding a handgun and fired four shots. The statement said she knew the driver as Albert Byrne, a taxi driver who lived in Castlemanor.

Ms Clinton agreed with Giollaiosa Ó Lideadha SC, defending, that she did not know Mr Byrne personally but had heard about him from other people.

She also accepted, although could not remember, that she had been in telephone contact with Mr McDonnell on a number of occasions in the afternoon after he was shot.

Mr Ó Lideadha suggested to Ms Clinton that she was aware that Mr McDonnell was in very serious trouble which had nothing to do with Mr Byrne and that they were in contact to “get a story straight to point the finger of blame away from those who were really involved”.

She replied, “I was just in contact to see if everything was alright”.

Mr McDonnell told the court last week that he had no memory of the circumstances of his shooting or of making a statement to gardaí.

His statement was also read out in court. In it he said that the accused had shot him in the stomach as he waited at traffic lights because Mr Byrne believed Mr McDonnell had assaulted his teenage son.

Under cross examination by Mr Ó Lideadha this morning, Mr McDonnell agreed that at the time he was shot he knew that gardaí suspected him of being involved in buying and selling drugs and that he had been stopped and searched by gardaí on a number of occasions.

He also accepted that after being hit by a bullet he drove his car a distance to a fire station. Mr Ó Lideadha suggested that Mr McDonnell knew that gardaí were going to ask questions and said “you must have had a good reason to drive to the fire station with a bullet in you”. Mr McDonnell replied: “Anything’s possible.”

Mr Ó Lideadha suggested that he drove to the station of get rid of drugs in a place where he would not be seen. Mr McDonnell said: “I had no drugs on me.” He accepted that he had had a walkie-talkie in his car to pick up Garda communications.

Mr McDonnell accepted that it was possible that he had been wrong when he identified the accused as the man who shot him and that the jury would be better off relying on independent facts rather than anything he ever said about the incident.

The trial continues before Mr Justice George Birmingham and a jury.

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