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Thursday 7 December 2023 Dublin: 10°C
Eamonn Farrell/ Conor Dolan plead guilty this afternoon to murdering his friend, who was "lured" to a country lane and "riddled" with bullets.

Dublin man pleads guilty to murdering friend who was "lured" to country lane

The guilty plea took place just two days after a jury was empanelled because a prison officer stood too close to the defendant.

A 33-YEAR-OLD MAN plead guilty in the Central Criminal Court this afternoon to murdering his friend, who was “lured” to a country lane and “riddled” with bullets in an “execution-style killing”.

The guilty plea took place just two days after a second trial jury had to be empanelled because a prison officer stood too close to the defendant in view of jurors.

Conor Dolan with an address at Ashbrook Apartments, Navan Road, Dublin 7 admitted today to murdering Neil Fitzgerald at Hills Lane, Crooksling, Tallaght, Dublin 24 on 5 June, 2016.

Dolan originally pleaded not guilty to the charge on 4 July and prosecution counsel Lorcan Staines SC made his opening address in the trial.

Staines said the prosecution would use circumstantial evidence to prove that Dolan arranged to pick up the deceased from a pub in Tallaght before driving to the remote area where the victim’s body would be discovered the following day.

Staines said Fitzgerald’s body was found on a quiet country lane where south Dublin turns into countryside.

Staines said the victim was “riddled with bullets” having been shot six times. The barrister suggested that the jury would not have much difficulty in concluding that the man was executed and that his killing was murder.

The second question, as to whether it was Dolan who had committed the murder, would take up more time, said Staines.

However, a new jury had to be empanelled on the second day of the trial after the defence successfully applied to have the jury discharged.

Paul Murray SC, defending Dolan, submitted to judge Eileen Creedon that prison officers had approached the defendant and were standing too near him while the jury was still in the courtroom.

Murray told the judge that as the court went for a break at around 12.30pm on its second day, prison officers – one of whom he said was sitting too close to his client – approached Dolan to take him to the cells in view of the jury.

The defence was successful in their application to the court that this had created a prejudice against Dolan and the first jury of seven men and five women was discharged.

Judge Creedon told the original jury that a matter had arisen just before lunchtime that day saying: “Something has arisen so we cannot proceed with the trial.

“Thank you very much for the time you have given up to this date and I am formally discharging you from the trial,” she added.

Staines gave his opening speech for a second time to a jury of six men and six women yesterday and the case proceeded.

Evidence was given yesterday in the trial that gardaí had recovered a burning rubber glove and mobile phone from the fireplace in the defendant’s home. The court also heard that when Dolan was approached by gardaí the day after the murder, he had cuts on his hand and blood on his tracksuit bottoms.

Following delays in the trial today, Murray told the judge that his client could be re-arraigned before the jury on the single count on the indictment.

Dolan then plead guilty to the single murder charge. 

Addressing the 12 jurors, Judge Creedon explained that the defendant had been re-arraigned on the count of murder and had pleaded guilty. She told the jury she would now release them and exempted them from jury service for the next three years.

When the six men and six women left the courtroom, Murray asked for a sentence date in early October for his client as Dolan had “personal arrangements” to put in place.

The judge remanded Dolan in custody until 9 October, when he will be sentenced. Judge Creedon will hand down the mandatory sentence of life imprisonment to Dolan on that date.

Staines told the judge that he would “canvass” whether the Fitzgerald family wanted to make a victim impact statement on the next date. 

There had been 14 days of a pre-trial hearing in advance of the trial.

In his opening speech, Staines said the victim was a big man, standing at 192 cm. He said the jury might wonder how the killer got such a big man to the quiet country lane where he was killed.

He added: “The prosecution case is that he was lured to his death by Conor Dolan and that Conor Dolan was a man he trusted, a man Neil Fitzgerald considered to be his friend.”

Staines said the evidence would show that Fitzgerald was shot between five and ten minutes after midnight when a number of witnesses heard gunshots in the area.

CCTV, automatic number plate recognition cameras and mobile phones would show the movements of the deceased and accused in the hours and minutes before the shooting, he said.

Alison O'Riordan and Paul Neilan
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