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Man (31) found guilty of the murder of Daithí Douglas in Dublin

Lee Canavan, with an address at Edenbrook, Rathfarnham, had pleaded not guilty to murdering shoe shop manager Daithí Douglas.

File photo of Bridgefoot Street
File photo of Bridgefoot Street
Image: Sam Boal

Updated May 20th 2021, 7:18 PM

THE SPECIAL CRIMINAL Court has found Dublin man Lee Canavan guilty of the murder of David ‘Daithí’ Douglas, who was “executed” at a city centre shoe shop five years ago.

The non-jury court, however, did not agree with the State’s contention that Canavan was “the person who literally pulled the trigger”, owing to a lack of forensic or identification evidence.

In passing judgement today, the non-jury court ruled that Canavan (31) was part of a joint enterprise or shared intention to murder Douglas in what was described as a “meticulously planned execution”.

Douglas (55) was shot six times as he took a meal break at the counter in his partner’s shop, Shoestown in Dublin’s Liberties. The semi-automatic pistol used in the murder had its serial number removed and was “brazenly” left at the scene next to the deceased’s head, the court heard.

Canavan, with an address at Edenbrook, Rathfarnham, Dublin 14, had pleaded not guilty to murdering Douglas, who died after sustaining injuries to his chest, neck, back, torso, elbow and jaw at Shoestown, Bridgefoot Street, Dublin 1, on 1 July 2016.

During the trial, an eyewitness described how the gunman “smirked” and walked away after firing shots into the shop where Douglas was working.

Shane Egan told the court that he was sitting in traffic in his van on Bridgefoot Street around 4pm on 1 July, when he saw a man walking up the hill from Oliver Bond Street in Dublin’s Liberties. “There was something strange about him which caught my attention,” he said.

The witness said the man walked past ‘Busy Bees’, an after-school service on Bridgefoot Street and went into the entrance of Shoestown. “He stopped at the entrance and then I heard bangs, I thought they were fireworks at first,” he continued, adding that he had heard five or six bangs in total.

Egan testified that he saw the man jump backwards out of the shop and walk back down the street. “He wasn’t running, just walking. He smirked at that stage and went around the corner in the direction of Oliver Bond Street,” he said.

A worker at the ‘Busy Bees’ service also told the court how he instructed his colleagues to lock the door and get the children “out of the way” after hearing the shots.

Canavan, who appeared at the court by video-link, is the second man to be found guilty of the murder and the fourth to be convicted in relation to the shooting. He was identified by gardaí as being both a driver and a passenger in cars used in the murder.

Presiding judge Mr Justice Michael MacGrath said he was satisfied that Canavan was also part of an attempt to destroy a getaway car three days later to minimise the link between the accused and the murder.

In 2018, gangster Frederick ‘Fat Freddie’ Thompson (41) was jailed for life by the Special Criminal Court for the murder of Douglas. In 2019, Nathan Foley (22) of Maryland, Dublin 8, was jailed for six years after he pleaded guilty to assisting a criminal organisation by driving one of four cars and buying mobile phones used in the offence. Canavan’s half-brother Gareth Brophy (26) was jailed in February 2020 for ten years also by the Special Criminal Court for his role as getaway driver.

It was the prosecution’s case that the murder was a “meticulously and carefully planned assassination” and that Canavan was “the person who literally pulled the trigger” after entering Douglas’ shop shortly after 4pm on the day of the shooting.

However, Mr Justice McGrath said the court could not be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that Canavan pulled the trigger, due to the lack of identifying evidence or DNA. He said the court agreed that the murder had been “meticulously planned”.

Professor Patrick Plunkett, a specialist in emergency medicine at St James’ Hospital, said that Douglas had penetrating wounds to the right side of his chest, back of his neck and beneath his jaw, he said. The witness said Douglas could not be resuscitated and he was pronounced dead at 4.55pm.

Detective Garda Alan Curry said he had recovered a loaded semi-automatic pistol with its serial number removed next to the victim’s head. The detective said he made the firearm safe at the scene by removing the magazine, which contained five rounds of ammunition. Three cartridge cases found on the floor outside the shop indicated that the shots were discharged from the roadway, he said, adding that the hammer of the weapon was still cocked and it had the capacity to hold 15 rounds of ammunition.

Today, Canavan was also found guilty of a second charge of criminal damage to a Suzuki Swift vehicle at Strand Road, Sandymount, on 4 July 2016, the property of Teresa Devoy.

The non-jury court previously heard that Canavan was arrested on suspicion of criminal damage after he was found travelling at speed in a stolen vehicle which had repeatedly crashed into another car in south Dublin three days after the shooting.

Canavan had €1,065 in cash and his clothing smelled of petrol when gardaí stopped him and Foley in Crumlin, in one of the four cars allegedly used in the killing of Douglas.

The judge said that four different vehicles had been used in the murder in a “carefully planned assassination”. A Mercedes car used in the killing was found burned out near the shooting and a stolen Suzuki Swift was then used to ferry those in the Mercedes away from the burn site.

Mr Justice McGrath said that each of the participants in the joint enterprise had a shared intention and separate roles in the killing.

The judge said he was satisfied that Canavan participated in the burning and ramming of the “ultimate getaway vehicle” – the Suzuki – three days after the murder. He said Canavan’s intent was to “destroy” the Suzuki in order to tie up loose ends and minimise his connection to the murder.

A Mitsubishi Mirage car, in which Canavan was a rear-seat passenger, left the area where the Suzuki was set alight and paint-transfer analysis later confirmed that the same car was used to ram the Suzuki.

The judge said that while the court was satisfied that Canavan committed the criminal damage, it was not entirely satisfied that he was also the gunman.

Mr Justice McGrath said that he believed eyewitness Egan was mistaken in his identification and that forensic analysis of the pistol grip pointed towards another male.

During the trial, Egan described the gunman as being about 5″8′ or 5″10′ in height but less than 6″ and was in his late 20s or early 30s, had stubble on his face and was wearing a hoodie.

In cross-examination, defence counsel Michael Bowman SC put it to Egan that he had told gardaí in his statement that he was confident he would recognise the shooter if he saw him again as he had turned and looked at him. The barrister further put it to Egan that he had also told gardaí that the shooter had dark hair, which was cut short.

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“Yes, that’s what I said,” replied Egan, adding that he was not asked to attend an identity parade.

In re-examination, prosecution counsel Sean Gillane SC asked the witness what he wanted to clarify when he returned to the garda station to make a second statement on 11 July. “I wanted to clarify that it wasn’t the colour of his hair, in fact I couldn’t see his hair as he had his hoodie up,” he replied.

Bowman had also argued that a swab taken from the pistol grip of the gun contained identifiable DNA attributable to another man, who was later arrested for Douglas’ murder.

The judge said while the CCTV footage in the case was of varying quality, Canavan’s fingerprints, however, were found on the rear-view mirror of a spotter vehicle; a Ford Fiesta.

Gardaí later identified Canavan, Foley and Thompson at the Little Caesar restaurant at about 7.30pm on the day of the murder.

Judge MacGrath said that while Canavan, Foley and Thompson were “friends”, the only reasonable inference he could make was that the meeting was not one of friendship but one of “common enterprise of those intimately connected and centrally involved in the murder”.

Passing judgement, Judge MacGrath said that Canavan was guilty of the murder due to his “active participation” in the “shared intention” of the murder of Douglas.

Speaking outside the court, Detective Chief Superintendent Paul Cleary said Canavan’s conviction was “very significant” and that gardaí had now convictions for the “whole murder cell”.

“This team were very forensically aware,” he said. “They put a lot of planning and thought into it, they used four cars, two of which were stolen, the two others were legitimate but used as ‘spotters’, so it was very significant that we were able to get the whole murder cell involved.

“This gang all operated in joint enterprise; they all had different roles but very well defined roles and it shows the level of planning that went into this murder.”

Detective Superintendent Cleary said Douglas’ family were “satisfied” with the conviction on an important day for them and the Dublin 8 community. He praised the work of the detective unit in Kevin Street, the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Garda Technical Bureau and Forensic Science Ireland and the assistance of the public.

“We are satisfied that the team who were involved on the day of the murder have been convicted,” he said.

About the author:

Paul Neilan

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