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The Central Criminal Court in Dublin city. Alamy Stock Photo
Josh Dunne

Trial of food delivery rider accused of murdering schoolboy Josh Dunne opens at Central Criminal Court

George Gonzaga Bento (36) is charged with murdering the 16-year-old in East Wall on 26 January 2021.

THE ISSUE OF self defence may have to be considered in the murder trial of a delivery cyclist accused of fatally stabbing schoolboy Josh Dunne following “a stand-off” over a stolen bicycle, the State has told the Central Criminal Court jury.

The 12 jurors were also told it is the prosecution case that the accused stabbed two other people that night and that events had unfolded within a “surprisingly short space of time”.

Sean Guerin SC, for the State, told the trial that the jury may have to consider the issue of self-defence as the accused had “invoked a fear” for himself and his friend when interviewed by gardai.

George Gonzaga Bento (36), a Brazilian national, with an address in East Wall in Dublin 3 is charged with murdering the 16-year-old at East Wall Road, East Wall on 26 January 2021.

Mr Bento also faces three other charges in relation to the same incident.

He is also accused of producing an article in a manner likely to intimidate another in the course of a dispute or fight, namely a utility knife.

The defendant is further accused of assault causing harm to two other young men on the same occasion.

The delivery cyclist has pleaded not guilty to each of the four counts.

Opening the prosecution’s case this afternoon, Mr Guerin said there are four counts on the indictment, which arose out of a single set of facts that happened in a short space of time and asked the jury to consider each count independently.

Outlining the facts of the case, Mr Guerin said the accused Mr Bento is a Brazilian man, who had been working as a delivery cyclist at the time.

The barrister said the accused had been referred to in court yesterday as a Deliveroo driver but that the word “Deliveroo” is used in a fairly generic sense. “He was wearing the livery of another company Just Eat and operating an account for Just Eat, when I say Deliveroo I don’t mean specifically Deliveroo,” he added.

Mr Guerin told the court that Mr Bento was living and working in the East Wall area of the inner city of north Dublin. The accused seemed to have mostly based himself at the McDonald’s premises at East Wall, he said, which was close to the location where the incident had occurred.

The prosecution barrister went on to tell the court that events unfolded that night within a “surprisingly short space of time” and that there had been more than one group of participants.

Josh Dunne, he said, was 16 years of age at the time and living in Ballymun.

Mr Guerin said the evidence will be that at the time Josh and his friends were making their way towards a pizza shop in East Wall, an incident which had no connection to them began to “unfold up East Wall Road away from the port”. 

The lawyer said that another delivery cyclist had left his bike outside a Lidl shop on East Wall Road. The bike was locked but not attached to anything and was stolen from outside Lidl by a man on a moped. “Because the bike was used by a food delivery cyclist, it was heavier with a powered hood and battery. It was an unwieldy thing to be stealing when riding a moped,” he said.

Counsel told the court that the identity of the man on the moped is not relevant and he would refer to him as “the man on the moped” during the trial. “The man on the moped, having taken the bike from outside the Lidl store then made his way down East Wall Road in the direction of the way the other group were travelling,” he said.

Having seen the man on the moped “making off with” what looked like a “delivery cyclist bike”, counsel said that Mr Bento and a friend had followed him. The accused and his friend then confronted the man on the moped when he came to a stop at the junction on East Wall Road.

From this point onwards, Mr Guerin said, all the events were captured on CCTV footage except for about 17 seconds. “You will have a good sense of what happened next and you will also have a slightly zoomed in version of the footage. Because there is no sound it is not a complete representation of what it is like to be involved in the incident. It was recorded by a camera across the road so it was some distance away and not recorded from the perspective of a person involved in the incident,” he explained.

When the 17 seconds elapsed and the footage resumed, Mr Bento and his friend had retrieved the bicycle and there was a confrontation or “stand-off” between them and the man on the moped. Eye witnesses will give their evidence of what they saw or heard, he said.

In relation to the evidence against the accused, Mr Guerin said it was the prosecution case that Mr Bento had produced a knife during the “stand-off or confrontation” with the man on the moped. “The second count on the indictment was committed at that stage,” he said

Very shortly after this, the group of young people including Josh were making their way back up East Wall Road and came upon “this confrontation”. Three of the group crossed the road and became involved in the incident.

Josh, he said, initially took hold of the moped and was holding it a short distance from the physical confrontation. Two of the group became more physically involved. At that point some force or violence was used by members of the group on Mr Bento and the man on the moped.

During the course of this encounter, Mr Guerin said the accused stabbed Josh’s teenage friend. He sustained more than one stab injury.

It is the prosecution’s case that Mr Bento was the only person who had a knife at the time and was using it.

Following this, the man on the moped took the bicycle back from Josh. The deceased then became physically involved in the confrontation, moved towards Mr Bento and appeared to be using force or violence towards him.

One of the striking features of the case, counsel said, was that the time from when Josh lets go of the moped to the point where he moves away from the group amounted to five seconds.

The only person Josh had any physical interaction with at the scene, Mr Guerin said, was with the accused and it was the State’s case that during these five seconds, Mr Bento stabbed the deceased twice in the chest and caused incised injuries to his left hand. “The prosecution case is that the only person that could have inflicted those injuries is the accused Mr Bento,” he added.

Josh, he said, having had the five second encounter with the accused then separated himself from the group and collapsed shortly afterwards. “Within 15 seconds of Josh letting go of the moped, he collapsed at the scene and sustained a fatal injury that was unsurvivable,” he said. Attempts to resuscitate the deceased failed and Josh was declared dead a little over an hour later.

Mr Guerin said the evidence will be that just at time Josh separated himself from the group, two other individuals arrived at the location. This man, who cannot be named, is the third person named on the indictment who suffered injuries, he added.

These two individuals, he said, were not with Josh or his friends and had seen the confrontation taking place and decided to “get involved with it”. Their involvement seems to have happened after Josh sustained the fatal injury, he continued.

Addressing the jury, he added: “These two individuals undoubtedly became physically involved and you won’t have difficulty in seeing their behaviour as aggressive and violent”. Mr Bento’s friend was beaten by these two men, he continued.

During the course of this encounter, Mr Bento stabbed one of these two men.

“Mr Bento separated himself from the group after Josh was injured and the prosecution case is that he returned and stabbed [the man],” he said.

The barrister further stated that the jury could infer intention on Mr Bento’s part from all the evidence that will be heard.

When Mr Bento was interviewed by gardai, Mr Guerin said he “invoked a fear” for himself and his friend. “You will have to assess whether the force used was necessary and was the actual level of force used reasonable. You will have to see how the circumstances appeared to Mr Bento at the time and put yourself in his shoes and picture the scene as it presented itself to him at the time,” he said.

He explained that the State’s case would establish that the incident as it unfolded was not one which called for the use of a knife and the way it was used. “Stabbing repeatedly in the chest not just of Josh Dunne but also the other two; that level of force is incapable of being considered reasonable,” he said.

The killing of Josh was unlawful and was done with intent to kill or cause serious injury to him he said, adding that there was sufficient evidence to convict Mr Bento of murdering the 16-year-old boy.

This was a case, Mr Guerin said, where the accused made a number of admissions of fact to the court. These included that Mr Bento admitted that Josh Dunne sustained injuries at East Wall road between 9.15pm and 9.25pm on 26 January, that he was taken by ambulance to the Mater Hospital where he underwent treatment, that Josh Dunne was declared dead at 10.29pm on 26 January and that he died as a result of a stab injury to right side of his chest.

It was also admitted that another 16-year-old boy sustained injuries at East Wall Road between 9.15pm and 9.25pm that night and that another young man sustained an injury to his lower back at 9.15pm that night. It was further admitted that Mr Bento presented voluntarily at arrangement at Store Street Garda Station on 28 January and provided a statement.

The trial continues tomorrow before Ms Justice Paul Burns and a jury of five men and seven women. It is expected to last between three and four weeks.

Alison O'Riordan