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Man (22) found guilty of murdering Alan O'Neill

Warren Nolan was found guilty of killing the 35 year-old in May 2015.

The Criminal Courts of Justice
The Criminal Courts of Justice
Image: Rollingnews.ie

A 22-YEAR-OLD will be sentenced to life imprisonment after being found guilty of murdering a man by shooting him dead in front of his partner on the driveway of their home.

The jury of six men and six women took six hours and nineteen minutes to reach a majority verdict of eleven to one on the murder charge against Warren Nolan of Rowlagh Park in Clondalkin who shot dead Alan O’Neill (35) at Kiltalown Road, Tallaght on 27 May, 2015.

The jury at the Central Criminal Court also found Nolan guilty by unanimous verdict of setting on fire the car used in the “hit” at Belfry Square in Tallaght on the same date. He had denied both charges.

Nolan did not react to the verdict and was quickly brought away to the cell area by prison officers.

Alan O’Neill’s partner Michelle Usher, who was a key witness for the prosecution and sat through the two-week trial, was comforted by family and friends.

Maddie Grant BL for the prosecution said O’Neill’s family will make a statement to the court on January 14 when Justice Paul McDermott will sentence Nolan to the mandatory term for murder of life imprisonment.

Justice McDermott thanked the jurors for their service in what he said was a “difficult” trial and exempted them from jury service for ten years.

The prosecution relied on CCTV evidence and forensics to secure the conviction of the 22-year-old.

Evidence in trial

Michelle Usher gave evidence that she was in her living room when she saw her partner park his car on the driveway at about 10pm on 27 May, 2015.

When Usher saw a people carrier pull up behind it she leaned closer to the window as she thought it “peculiar”.

Then a “dark figure” came into the garden. He looked like a “young fella” and so when she heard two “really loud bangs” she thought it was a joke until, as she opened the door, she heard another bang, saw a blue flash and a black gun in the dark figure’s hand followed by O’Neill screaming out in pain.

Usher caught hold of O’Neill and brought him in the doorway to the living room while another shot smashed the window of the hall door. She said: “Everything happened so quickly and I just didn’t believe what was going on.”

She saw the figure with the gun run out of the garden and get back in the people carrier which then “took off”. By his posture and movements she thought he was a “young boy” or a “teenager” but she didn’t see his face.

Nolan was arrested within minutes of the shooting. The alert had just gone over garda radio when Detective Garda Conor Harrison and a colleague pulled over a car that they believed to be suspicious at nearby Belfry Manor.

Det Gda Harrison then heard another car revving hard and coming at speed. When he saw a youth pull up his hoodie and “move with purpose” away from him he decided to take a closer look and around the same time became aware of a car that had been set on fire about 100 metres away.

As this was unfolding Nolan arrived “like he had been shot out of a cannon,” and almost ran into the detective.

Det Gda Harrison said he immediately formed the suspicion that Nolan had come from the burning car which had come from the shooting in Kiltalown Road.

He brought Nolan to the ground and as he did so, he said he noticed a lighter fall from the suspect’s gloved hand.

The detective later recorded in his notebook that Nolan called out: “I only set the car on fire, I only set the car on fire.”

Nolan denied using those words in his interviews with gardai over the following days and said the lighter fell from his pocket, not his hand.

Nolan was arrested and taken to Tallaght Garda Station where, during a series of interviews, he denied any knowledge of O’Neill’s murder and said he was in Tallaght visiting his aunt and hanging around with friends.

He couldn’t remember where he had been or where any of his friends lived. He also denied that he was there to meet the driver of the suspicious car – the alleged getaway car – that had been stopped by Det Gda Harrison and his colleague.

State Pathologist Professor Marie Cassidy told the trial that O’Neill died from a bullet wound that went through his forearm and into his side, damaging the body’s main blood vessel and puncturing the liver.

Another bullet entered the right thigh but did not damage any major structures. From the trajectory of the wounds she said it is likely that he was already on the ground when he received the wound to his leg.

Forensic scientist Dr Tom Hannigan examined gloves that were confiscated from Nolan and found firearms residue on one of them.

This, he said, offered “very strong support” for the hypothesis that Nolan was the shooter rather than that he was not.

Under cross examination from Michael Bowman SC Dr Hannigan accepted that he did not test any other items of clothing belonging to the accused man.

He further accepted that had he tested the sleeves of the top worn by Nolan and been unable to detect firearms residue he would have had to reconsider his findings.

Dr Hannigan told Bowman that firearms residue can be transferred by various means. One possibility is that the person was handed a gun that had been recently fired or that they were handed the gloves worn by the shooter.

Bowman, in cross examining the witness and during his closing speech to the jury, suggested that firearms residue could also have transferred to the gloves in the garda patrol car or the garda public office where gardai seized the gloves.

Dr Hannigan agreed that such contamination was possible if somebody in those areas had recently fired a gun.

Bowman also pointed to inconsistencies in garda statements about how the gloves were seized and stored, telling the jury they were, “handed around Billy to Jack in a way that is extraordinary given how much weight the prosecution places on those gloves.”

Dr Barbara Buchanan found evidence of petrol on the t-shirt, runners and tracksuit bottoms worn by Nolan when he was arrested and on the gloves.

While the prosecution said this was proof that he had burned out the car moments before being arrested Bowman argued that there was no evidence as to when the petrol got onto his client’s clothing.

Shane Costelloe SC for the prosecution also pointed to CCTV footage tracking three vehicles alleged to be involved in the murder plot, “stalking their prey” in the hours before the shooting.

Costelloe said the CCTV showed the shooter emerging from a people carrier at the driveway to O’Neill’s home and firing four times at O’Neill before making his escape in the same car, which was driven by an accomplice.

That car, Costelloe said, was the same one that was burned out at Belfry Square by Nolan moments before he ran into the “welcoming arms of Detective Harrison.”

Costelloe said during his closing speech that Nolan was not the only person involved in the murder of Alan O’Neill.

There was the driver of the people carrier and the alleged getaway car and the driver of a third vehicle said to have been “stalking” O’Neill in the lead up to the shooting.

No motive was suggested for the murder during the trial.

Comments have been closed as sentencing has yet to take place.

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Eoin Reynolds

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