Dundon convicted of Geoghegan murder

John Dundon has been found guilty of the murder of innocent rugby player Shane Geoghegan in a case of mistaken identity.

Dundon convicted of Geoghegan murder

John Dundon has been found guilty of the murder of innocent rugby player Shane Geoghegan in a case of mistaken identity.

Dundon, of Hyde Road in Limerick, listened to music on headphones, often humming, in the courtroom throughout a lengthy judgment that convicted him of ordering the hit that killed the 28-year-old near his home almost five years ago.

Three judges sitting at the non-jury Special Criminal Court were unanimous in their judgment and backed the evidence of State witness April Collins, a former girlfriend of Dundon's younger brother.

Dundon, 30, who cannot read or write, pleaded not guilty to the murder of Mr Geoghegan near his home at Clonmore, Kilteragh, Dooradoyle, on November 9, 2008.

The gunman, Dublin man Barry Doyle, was convicted of the murder in February last year and jailed for life.

Dundon, who is no longer on hunger strike and walked in to the packed courtroom, kept his head bowed and listened to music to drown out Judge Nicholas Kearns as he read 23 pages of a 61-page judgment.

Dressed in a black tracksuit, he showed no reaction as the guilty verdict was delivered, staring ahead with his hands clasped together under his chin.

He made a gesture with his hand as the life sentence was imposed.

The judge had earlier rejected an application by defence lawyers to have the case dismissed as one of the three judges had previously dismissed an appeal by Dundon's brother Dessie after he was convicted of a murder.

Judge Kearns, presiding, said State witnesses - Ms Collins, a former partner of Dundon's brother Ger, her sister Lisa and her partner Christopher McCarthy, Dundon's cousin - should be regarded as accomplices in the murder case.

But he found their evidence against the accused was truthful, credible and placed Dundon in a central role in the "planning and direction" of the murder.

Geoghegan's girlfriend, Jenna Barry, his mother Mary and brother Anthony, were supported by several senior gardaí from Limerick in court and listened intently to the verdict. None of them showed any emotion.

Tom O'Connell, senior counsel for the prosecution, said the family did not want to make a victim impact statement, but that his mother had one message: "The facts of the case speak for itself."

The family have entered and left the courts complex through a back entrance on each day of the trial.

Mr Geoghegan, a Garryowen rugby player, had been watching an Ireland rugby international at a friend's house and texted Ms Barry shortly before 1am on the morning he was shot saying he would be home shortly.

Moments later, she heard shots being fired and a saw a man run to a stolen getaway car.

Mr Geoghegan was shot five times with a Glock semi-automatic pistol and was crouched down facing the gunman when some of the bullets were fired. The fatal shot was to the back of his head.

Crime boss Dundon had ordered the killing of the victim’s neighbour John McNamara, nicknamed 'Pitchfork', on the Friday night, but Doyle shot the wrong man.

Both their convictions centred on the Collins sisters and McCarthy, whose lives are under threat.

April Collins, who had been in a relationship with the accused's brother Gerard, had told the judges she was present when John Dundon ordered Doyle to kill Mr McNamara.

She said she also saw him call gang rival Philip Collopy to brag about the killing, and described how he panicked, screamed and roared when he was told they had “hit” the wrong man.

But she denied she turned State witness by doing a deal with gardaí, adding that no one would want their life “under garda protection 24/7”.

Her sister Lisa and Dundon’s cousin McCarthy also faced him in court and admitted stealing the Renault Espace used in the killing weeks before the murder. Both were guaranteed immunity from prosecution.

Brendan Nix, senior counsel for Dundon, said his client expressed his sympathies with the victim’s family, but denies he had any hand, act or part in the killing.

“He deeply regrets Mr Geoghegan lost his life in this way,” said Mr Nix.

“He has done some things in this life but he maintains his innocence, that he had no hand, act or part in this.

“He hopes some day the full truth will come out.”

The court said it accepted the evidence by the three about the getaway car being stolen at the behest of Dundon and that in the weeks and on the night prior to the killing Dundon expressed antipathy towards Mr McNamara.

It was also found that the prosecution had proved the close relationship between the accused and the gunman, Doyle.

Judge Kearns said April Collins was plainly terrified of the accused, but she was nonetheless steadfast in her account of what was said and what was done and had not presented herself as some sort of innocent.

“That evidence, taken as a whole, points overwhelmingly to the guilt of John Dundon of the offence with which he stands charged,” he said.

“Having given careful consideration to all of the evidence and to each and every point raised on behalf of the accused in this case, the court is satisfied that the prosecution has established the guilt of John Dundon in this case beyond reasonable doubt.

“The court finds the accused, John Dundon, guilty.”

Dundon made several attempts to delay the trial and went on hunger strike for several weeks. He looked pale and thin as he sat in the courtroom in a wheelchair, but filled out in recent weeks.

One day he arrived at court dressed only in a pair of shorts after refusing to wear prison-issue clothing.

Within weeks, Ireland’s highest court, the Supreme Court, dismissed his appeal to have his trial delayed amid claims that his legal team needed more time to review thousands of pages of documents disclosed by the prosecution.

A new panel of judges sat at his request, but, as he was due to go on trial, he dramatically sacked his legal team, later fainting and cutting his head in a cell moments after realising he was expected to represent himself.

The next day, Limerick-based solicitor John Devane arrived to represent him with senior counsel Brendan Nix, who told the court “there will be no messing around” during the trial if he took over the case.

He claimed the three witnesses had concocted a case, which he described as conspiracy.

But prosecutor Sean Guerin maintained that Dundon’s carelessness in describing the target led to the killing of the innocent man.

“The lack of precision in that description is what made it possible for someone else to be killed,” he said.

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