The trial of Aaron Brady, who denies the capital murder of Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe, has resumed in front of the jury following a nine-week break.
The jury, now made up of six men and seven women, viewed CCTV footage showing the movements of a car three nights before the robbery in January 2013 that resulted in Det Gda Donohoe being shot dead. The timing of the footage was put to the jury alongside details of contacts between two mobile phones linked to the accused man and phones linked to two men suspected of involvement in the robbery.
Aaron Brady, aged 28, from New Road, Crossmaglen, Co Armagh has pleaded not guilty to the capital murder of Det Gda Adrian Donohoe on January 25, 2013, at Lordship Credit Union, Bellurgan, Co Louth. Mr Brady has also pleaded not guilty to a charge of robbing approximately €7,000 in cash and assorted cheques on the same date and at the same location.
Yesterday was the first sitting of the trial in front of the jury since the first week in March. Over the intervening two months, lawyers for both sides have worked on legal issues in front of Mr Justice Michael White and in recent weeks, the jurors were contacted and informed of measures taken by the courts to mitigate the risk of contracting Covid-19. One of the 14 jurors said he was not willing to continue due to fears over his health and Mr Justice White explained to the jury yesterday that he was discharged without having to come to court.
The judge welcomed the remaining 13 jurors and told them he has made directions to allow for social distancing in court and to comply with the government’’s guidelines to mitigate the threat of the disease. However, he added that if any juror has a difficulty or concern they should bring it to his attention. He also said he has arranged to refund any parking costs incurred by the jury when attending court.
He further explained that a second court has been set up where people can view the proceedings remotely, thus keeping the numbers in any one court to a minimum. The jurors have been given seating around the court so they do not have to sit grouped in the jury box and Mr Justice White has put a limit on the number of people allowed in the courtroom.
Giving the jury a roadmap of the evidence to be heard in the coming weeks, Brendan Grehan, prosecuting, said this week and part of next week will be taken up with CCTV and telephone evidence. Other witnesses may be introduced and from May 18, he said, it is intended that witnesses in New York will give evidence via live video link. When that happens, he said the court will sit from 2pm to allow for the time difference between here and the east coast of America.
Civilian crime and policing analyst Edward McGoey was the first witness to give evidence. He told Lorcan Staines, prosecuting, that he analysed phone records for the garda investigation team. He said this investigation was "much harder" than ones he had done previously due to the volume of records sought. They numbered in the thousands, he said.
Detective Garda Gareth Kenna told Mr Staines that he was part of a garda team that analyzed CCTV footage from 380 locations as part of the investigation. Gda Kenna compiled a CCTV montage of footage taken from 25 of those locations. On the footage he pointed out a dark-toned saloon car at a garage in Ballymascanlon at 12.20am on January 23, 2013. At around the same time, Mr McGoey said a number of text messages were exchanged between two phones attributed to Mr Brady and phones attributed to a man named as a suspect for the robbery and that man’s brother.
Det Gda Kenna also pointed out a dark-coloured saloon car driving towards the Bellurgan area at 1:41am and entering a house belonging to the parents of the robbery suspect. Among the last texts sent by Aaron Brady on the night was to his then girlfriend Jessica King at 1.32am in which he said: "I love you more. Night xx."
The trial continues on Friday in front of Justice White and the jury of six men and seven women.