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Tight security in court as man accused of gang murder turns State witness

There were significant delays at the Criminal Courts of Justice as every person entering was screened through security.

The queue outside the Central Criminal Court this morning due tight security due a former murder accused now giving evidence for the State.
The queue outside the Central Criminal Court this morning due tight security due a former murder accused now giving evidence for the State.
Image: Christina Finn

TIGHT SECURITY ARRANGEMENTS were put in place today at the Criminal Courts of Justice as a man previously accused of murder gave evidence in the trial of three men. 

David Cullen was accused, along with the three men, of killing dissident republican Peter Butterly last year.

However, he was in court today as a witness for the State, a rare occasion where a co-accused turns prosecution witness.

High security  

The security operation caused delays to many cases as every person entering the courts building had to be screened thoroughly at security. Queues built up down the street from 10am.

Some members of the public were taken to the side or into another room by gardaí with gloves for further searching, causing some cases not to be heard until after 11am.

Edward McGrath, 33, of Land Dale Lawns, Springfield, Tallaght; Dean Evans, 24 of Grange Park Rise, Raheny and Sharif Kelly, 44, of Pinewood Green Road, Balbriggan have pleaded not guilty to the murder of Peter Butterly, who was shot dead in the car park of the Huntsman Inn, at Gormanston County Meath on 6 March 2013.

Peter Butterly Crime Scenes Gardai examine a car at the scene of a fatal shooting at the Huntsman Inn near Gormanstown Co Meath Source: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

Peter Butterly Crime Scenes Huntsman Inn near Gormanstown. Source: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

Butterly was confronted as he walked across the car park and was shot a number of times.

The assailants fled the scene in a car. However, the group of men were being watched by the surveillance unit of the gardaí and the car was intercepted a short time later, less than half a mile from the scene.

A garda member of the National Surveillance Unit, who was at the scene, shortly after the shooting, gave evidence at the Special Criminal Court last week. The public gallery were told to leave the court room while the members of the National Surveillance Unit gave their evidence.

The three men are also charged with firearm offences as well as being members of a dissident republican organisation.

The three accused are believed to be associated with Alan Ryan’s gang, the Real IRA boss who was killed in September 2012,

Emotions running high

The special security arrangements were put in place due to Cullen taking to the stand today at a special sitting of the Special Criminal Court to give evidence for the prosecution.

Cullen had been charged in connection to the fatal shooting of Butterly in 2013, however, he has since become a so-called ‘supergrass’ and cooperated with the gardaí, agreeing to give evidence in the case.

For his co-operation, Cullen has only been charged with possession of a firearm and is currently serving a five-year sentence. It is also believed that Cullen will receive further protections when he leaves jail.

A garda source told TheJournal.ie that today’s hearing was “rare” because “there have only been a handful of these State witnesses”.

Court room 

Packed to the rafters, Court room 11 in the Central Criminal Court was full of gardaí and special detectives, as well of the families for the accused and the victim.

Security measures continued outside the courtroom, with a walk-through metal detector in place at the doorway, as well as all members of the public having to show ID and hand over their mobile phones to gardaí before entering the court.

Before Cullen took to the stand, Justice Deirdre Murphy, presiding at the non-jury court, welcomed everyone to the court, stating that there are “quite a number of people here today”.

“Feelings may be running high due to the next witness and the court is anxious to conduct matters in public,” Ms Justice Murphy said, urging those in the public gallery not to interrupt the court.

Cullen entered the court, flanked by senior members of the gardaí and took his seat. As he passed the three accused, one of them was seen mouthing an insult at him.

The witness told the court about the events leading up to the shooting.

Facing the three accused, who sat together in the dock, Cullen said that he was asked if he was around to pick up something, which he was later told was a gun. He said he agreed to do it.

Gun

He said that Sharif Kelly took him to Gormanstown College on the Tuesday to show him where he was to pick up the gun the next day. Cullen said he dug a hole with an axe from Kelly’s car, where he was told to dispose of the gun when he got it the next day. He said he was told to be there at 2pm the next day and that the weapon would be thrown out the window of a moving car.

Cullen said he later went home but received a call at about 8.50pm that evening from Kelly or another man who was not named in court – he wasn’t sure who. A number of men came to his apartment that evening, including the three accused, some of whom he had not met before.

He said a black sports bag was put in the boot of a car. One unnamed man at the apartment told him to “make sure this gets done right”.

Cullen told the court that at this point he did not know who was going to be shot. He said he didn’t think much of it, adding that in his mind he was still going to go ahead with it and collect the gun.

He said he did not know anyone else’s arrangements. Cullen said he was asked the next morning if some people could “keep their head down” in his apartment and between noon and 12.30pm the accused, Sharif Kelly, Dean Evans, Edward McGrath and another unnamed man turned up at his door.

Gormanstown College 

He said he was to pick up the gun at 2pm and that Kelly was to drive him. Evans and McGrath stayed behind in his home, on the understanding that they would leave a couple of minutes after them, he said. He said he got to the college and dug a hole where the gun was to go.

Cullen added that McGrath also gave him a phone to dispose of that day. Evans gave him a sock with ammunition in it also. “It was a normal white sock, tied in a ball. He told me there was 12 rounds of ammunition in it,” said Cullen.

He stated that he placed the sock in the pocket of a pair of jeans, folded it up and placed it in his wardrobe.

Dean Evans told me that he had brought ammunition for the gun, but hadn’t realised there was already ammunition in the gun, so he asked me to mind it.

He then stated that McGrath brought in the black bag that was placed in the boot of the car the night before.

That was when Cullen said he saw the gun, black wigs, baseball cap and gloves in the bag.

The trial is ongoing. Security arrangements will continue to be in place at the courts while Cullen is giving evidence.

Read: Man shot dead outside The Huntsman pub in Gormanston, county Meath

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