Man accused of garda's murder was roaring in the street about snipers, trial hears

The court heard a Garda recount how Stephen Silver had talked over him "in an angry loud voice" in Castlerea Garda Station
Man accused of garda's murder was roaring in the street about snipers, trial hears

The jury also heard on Thursday that Stephen Silver (pictured) went to the garda station earlier in the day where he delivered an “angry rant” about the supposed abuse of his friend during a garda raid. File picture: PA

The Central Criminal Court has heard that a motorbike mechanic charged with the murder of Garda Colm Horkan was roaring and shouting in the street daring “the armed squad to come down and to have a sniper to get a good shot” on the night the garda was shot dead.

The jury in the trial of Stephen Silver (46), of Aughavard, Foxford, Co. Mayo, also heard on Thursday that the accused went to the garda station earlier in the day where he delivered an “angry rant” about the supposed abuse of his friend during a garda raid.

Mr Silver has pleaded not guilty to the capital murder of Gda Horkan knowing or being reckless as to whether he was a member of An Garda Siochana acting in accordance with his duty at Castlerea, Co. Roscommon, on June 17, 2020. He has pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

Garda Raymond O’Dowd gave evidence to counsel for the prosecution, Michael Delaney SC, that he was on duty at Castlerea Garda Station on June 17, 2020, when a male entered the station. He said the man was tall and in his 40s, with long dark hair beginning to grey and a beard.

Garda O’Dowd said the man “began an angry rant” giving out about an elderly person who had been abused. He said that he took this to mean that the gardaí had in the man’s eyes mistreated somebody.

“He said he had it recorded and would take it to the media or press. He continued to talk over me in an angry loud voice,” said Gda O’Dowd.

Detective Garda Colm Horkan (pictured) died as a result of being shot a number of times. File picture
Detective Garda Colm Horkan (pictured) died as a result of being shot a number of times. File picture

The witness said that once the man had said his piece he turned and walked outside, where he got into the driver’s seat of a blue van. Gda O’Dowd said that the van was a blue Volkswagen registered to Stephen Silver. Gda O’Dowd confirmed to defence counsel Maurice Coffey SC that the man who had entered the station was Mr Silver.

Witness Derek Mannion, a bus driver who lived at Knockroe estate in Castlerea, gave evidence to Mr Delaney that he was parked up during his lunch break on the day when Mr Silver, whom he said he has known for around 30 years, came along and they had a conversation.

“He was in good form. We discussed music and bikes and general chit chat,” said Mr Mannion. The witness told the court that he and Mr Silver then spoke about a video they had both seen of a garda raid on the home of James Coyne at Knockroe. “We both thought it was a bit over the top,” said Mr Mannion.

In response to cross-examination by Mr Coffey, Mr Mannion said he was aware of Mr Silver’s psychiatric difficulties and knew that he had been hospitalised on occasion.

Witness Francis McDonnell gave evidence to Mr Delaney that he brought a motorbike to Mr Silver on June 17 to have repairs done. He said that when he arrived at Mr Silver’s shed, he saw Mr Silver and another man that he did not know. He said this second man was around 5’ 6”, bald with two tattoos on his head.

Mr McDonnell said that Mr Silver gestured to this man and told Mr McDonnell, “We’re going to Castlerea. The gardaí broke into his house and wrecked the place.” 

'Wasn’t in the right mind'

Witness Fiona Murren, who lived in Knockroe estate next door to Mr Coyne, said that on June 17, 2020, she was at home when a blue van arrived at Mr Coyne’s house at 1pm. She said that a tall man in his late 30s or early 40s with a ponytail and a beard got out of the van, and Mr Coyne welcomed him with a hug. 

They went to the front door of the house, which had been broken, before they drove off in the van. Ms Murren said that at 11pm that night, “the van came rushing down the road again”. She said the van parked in Mr Coyne’s driveway and she heard loud music coming from it.

“I could hear them talking and it sounded like a disagreement,” she said. She said the man with the ponytail took a fishing chair and what looked like two gear bags out of the van and put the chair in the driveway with the bags either side. 

She said he shouted up the road, “Come on you cunts, we can’t be living like this.”  “He sat down in the chair and started giving out, like he was waiting for somebody to come down the road, like a gang was going to come down the road,” said Ms Murren.

The witness said that both Mr Coyne and the other man took turns riding a motorbike around the estate that had been taken out of the van. She said the men then brought the bike in and the man with the ponytail took off his gloves and jacket. “He was walking about punching his fist into his open palm,” she said.

In response to cross-examination by defence counsel, Dominic McGinn SC, Ms Murren confirmed that the man with the ponytail was Mr Silver. The witness also confirmed to Mr McGinn that she thought Mr Silver “wasn’t in the right mind” at the time.

She confirmed that she saw Mr Silver pacing up and down, punching his fist into his hand, and she also saw him rubbing his arms and fixing his hair.

Witness Laura McIntyre, who lived in Knockroe, gave evidence to counsel for the prosecution, James Dwyer SC that at 10.30pm on June 17, 2020, she heard noises outside her house of a motorbike. She said she saw a man on a motorbike doing laps around the green area.

“It was very reckless driving, fast driving,” she said. She gave evidence that she saw him doing skids on the road, causing smoke to come out from the wheel. She said she then saw the man standing on the road roaring and shouting up the estate.

“He seemed very agitated, he was rubbing his hands and his head,” said Ms McIntyre. 

I heard him shout that he would dare the armed squad to come down and to have a sniper to get a good shot. I was afraid. I closed the window and went to bed.

In response to cross-examination by Mr McGinn, the witness confirmed that the man she saw was Mr Silver.

At the opening of the trial, Mr McGinn made certain admissions on behalf of Mr Silver. He told the jury that there was no issue with the cause of death in this case, as it was accepted that Gda Horkan tragically died as a result of being shot a number of times.

Mr McGinn said that the accused’s responsibility is accepted as Mr Silver admitted shooting and killing Gda Horkan, which was obvious from his plea to manslaughter. He said there was an acceptance by him that he caused the death. “The main issue is Mr Silver’s state of mind at the time,” said Mr McGinn.

The trial continues on Tuesday before Ms Justice Tara Burns and the jury of seven men and five women.

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