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Lee Canavan given life sentence over role in the murder of David 'Daithí' Douglas

Douglas was shot dead outside his partner’s shoe shop in the Liberties area of Dublin on July 1, 2016.

Image: Sam Boal

Updated Jun 3rd 2021, 8:55 PM

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

In passing judgement last month, the three-judge court ruled that Canavan (32) was part of a joint enterprise or shared intention to murder Douglas in what was described as a “meticulously planned execution”.

However, the non-jury court 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.

Douglas (55) was shot six times in broad daylight 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 July 1, 2016.

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

In passing sentence this morning at the Special Criminal Court, Mr Justice Michael MacGrath said that the mandatory life imprisonment term would apply and that he had sympathy for the Douglas family, who declined to give a witness impact statement.

Detective Garda Denise Bambrick of Kevin Street Garda Station told the court that Canavan had been in custody since May 19, 2020 and had been fined €100 and €200 for possession of drugs in June 2016.

Mr Justice MacGrath said that Canavan’s drug possession convictions were not an aggravating factor in that they were not significantly relevant to the charges before the court.

Canavan, a father of a three-year-old girl, was concurrently jailed for five years for the criminal damage to the getaway vehicle, a stolen Suzuki Swift, in Sandymount three days after the shooting.

The judge said that an aggravating factor in the criminal damage to the car was that it was used in as a getaway vehicle in the murder.

Both sentences were backdated to May 2020 when Canavan was taken into custody after a European Arrest Warrant was executed in the UK.

Defence counsel Michael Bowman SC said that Canavan left Rathfarnham and had worked as a printer in the UK after leaving school in fifth year. He said his client later returned to Ireland to study business IT and web design.

Mr Justice MacGrath extended free legal aid to cover any appeal by the defence.

Canavan is the fourth man to be jailed in relation to the murder and his conviction was described by gardaí as “significant”.

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.

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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.

At the end of the brief hearing, Canavan, who was appearing via videolink from Mountjoy prison, nodded and gave a thumbs-up to indicate he understood proceedings.

After the guilty verdict last month, Detective Chief Superintendent Paul Cleary told media outside of court that 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.”

Det Supt Cleary said Douglas’ family were “satisfied” with the conviction on an important day for the family 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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