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The trial is taking place before the Central Criminal Court. Shutterstock
Central Criminal Court

Food delivery rider accused of stabbing boy to death said he used knife in defence, witness says

The witness described the conditions for delivery riders in Dublin 3 as “dangerous”.

LAST UPDATE | 10 May 2022

A FOOD DELIVERY rider accused of stabbing schoolboy Josh Dunne to death said that he used a knife on the night to defend himself, a key witness has told the Central Criminal Court.

The jury in the trial of George Gonzaga Bento was also shown WhatsApp messages between the accused and witness Mr Guilherme Quieroz on the night of the incident.

Mr Queiroz described the Dublin 3 area as “very dangerous” for delivery riders and confirmed that food delivery workers had a WhatsApp group to communicate with each other about “trouble spots or danger areas” in Dublin.

“We used to exchange information if someone saw a group, just to avoid the area, they used clothes like North Face,” he said, adding that this type of clothing would help Deliveroo drivers identify trouble.

Mr Quieroz also told the Central Criminal Court today that he was attacked by up to three people that night, had his teeth and nose broken and suffered an injury to his knee. He also told the jury that he was afraid to leave his house after the “traumatic” incident, that he had to stay at home for at least 20 days and eventually left Ireland.

The witness added: “At the moment I was being hit I was afraid of dying.”

Recalling his memory of the night, he said: “At the time I felt very scared, I was really afraid, every time I remember I get afraid”.

Padraig Dwyer SC, for the accused, told the jury that it was the defence case that his client produced a knife in response to a threat from a man on a moped who “reached his right hand into his back pocket”.

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

The prosecution alleges that Mr Bento, a delivery cyclist, produced a knife during a “stand-off or confrontation” with a man on a moped for stealing another delivery cyclist’s bike. Very shortly after this, a group of young people including Josh came upon this confrontation.

Prosecution counsel Sean Guerin SC has told the jury they will hear evidence that some force was used by members of the group on Mr Bento, along with evidence that the accused stabbed Josh’s teenage friend.

Counsel said there will be evidence that the deceased, who had been back a short distance from the confrontation, then became physically involved, moved towards Mr Bento and appeared to use force or violence towards him.

Continuing his examination-in-chief today, Mr Quieroz told Mr Guerin that the man on the moped was saying “bad words” to them like “fuck off”, “fuck you” and “mother fuckers”.

Mr Quieroz said he thought the man on the moped would “just run away” after they caught him allegedly stealing the bicycle but he didn’t.

The witness said he told the man on the moped that he would call the gardai when he wasn’t running away. However, the man on the moped continued “going around” with his motorcycle and kicking the bicycle, he said.

Mr Quieroz said the accused told the man on the moped to “go away” as the bicycle was not his and “don’t steal things, just go away”.

The witness said he was goggling the phone number for gardai when around 10 to 15 “young adults” came along. “I saw them coming by bicycle, [they were] guys. I didn’t realise any girl there, it was very fast. They were young adults as they were tall [sic],” he said.

When the group of young men arrived, Mr Quieroz said the man on the moped gave his motorcycle to one of them. “He [the man on the moped] didn’t need to say too much to them for them to approach us, it was like something natural, they just came,” he added.

Mr Guerin asked if the man on the moped had said anything to him or Mr Bento. “I just remember his gesture and he did this [the witness gestured]. I got a feeling we were in trouble,” he said.

The witness said the man on the moped came towards him and punched him in the face and body. Mr Quieroz said two or three other people hit him at the same time.

The witness testified that Mr Bento was beside him and at some point he saw that the accused had a small knife in his hand.

When asked by the lawyer if he could remember when the first time that he saw the knife in Mr Bento’s hand was, the witness said: “At the time they were coming to assault us”.

Mr Quieroz said he had never seen the knife before nor the accused having any knife in his possession prior to this event.

The witness did not see Mr Bento use the knife but thought he was holding it in his right hand.

Mr Guerin asked the witness if he could give any description as to what happened to the other people whilst he was being attacked by more than one person. “I couldn’t see anything.

It was impossible as I had three people hitting me and couldn’t see. The first punch got my eyebrow and there was a lot of blood in my face and at this point I could see even less,” he replied.

Mr Quieroz said his teeth were broken and that he suffered a broken nose, two cuts and bruising on his face and damage to his right knee.

The witness fell to the ground as he was being kicked and then tried to stand up because he said he was afraid they would kick his head on the ground. “Then I stood up and a few seconds later they stopped hitting and kicking me, then they ran to the side and started to shout [sic],” he said.

Another Brazilian man arrived to help Mr Quieroz and the witness said he went back to this man’s house “to clean up”.

Mr Quieroz said he did not notice where Mr Bento was and didn’t see him again that night. He also said he noticed one person from the other group lying on the ground.

The witness agreed that he had a private conversation with Mr Bento on Whatsapp around a half an hour after he got home and also spoke to him on the phone for a little while.

The jury will be given transcripts of the WhatsApp messages between the accused and Mr Quieroz in due course.

At 10:10pm on 26 January, Mr Quieroz sent Mr Bento a message saying: “Hi brother” and then made an attempt to call the accused.

At 10:18pm, Mr Bento sent Mr Quieroz a message saying: “Sorry bro, Uber called me”.

Two minutes later at 10:20pm, Mr Bento sent a message to Mr Quieroz saying: “Bro, I’m sorry I got you involved in this, we could have turned a blind eye and just moved on”.

At 10:39pm, Mr Quieroz sent Mr Bento a message saying: “What’s up?” and then asked “what happened?”

At 10:49pm, Mr Bento replied: “I’ll go there again to see if I can find the mobile phone”.

Mr Quieroz explained to the jury that he had spoken to the accused at some point and Mr Bento had mentioned that he had lost his phone.

Mr Quieroz replied: “Great”.

At 11:01pm, Mr Bento sent Mr Quieroz a message saying: “Bro did you see the news, they’re saying that one of them died.”

Mr Quieroz replied: “Yes, I saw. Let’s hope not bro”.

Mr Quieroz explained to the jury through the interpreter that “we didn’t have any wish that someone died”.

Mr Guerin told the witness that he [the witness] could only speak for himself.

The lawyer asked the witness if Mr Bento had said anything to him about the knife he [Mr Quieroz] had seen him with earlier when he spoke to him. “He just told me he used the knife to defend himself,” said Mr Quieroz.

The witness also confirmed that Mr Bento had not said anything to him as to why he had the knife that night. “But at that time it was no big deal to have a kit or knife or tool to fix knife for different reasons. For me it was common,” he added.

Mr Quieroz agreed with counsel that once he became aware that someone had died he contacted with gardaí.

Under cross-examination, Mr Quieroz told defence counsel Padraic Dwyer SC, for Mr Bento, that it was not his intention to hurt the man on the moped when they went to recover the stolen bike. “As I said before, I really believed he would just run away,” he added.

The witness agreed that he would not have gone after the man on the moped if he had known what would have happened that night. “I have never been involved in any fight in my life and I never thought I’d go through this situation,” he said.

He agreed that he came to Ireland “to advance his position in life” as his brother was living here and had told him that it was a great country, that he could get a good job and have a good life.

When asked if he had lived a peaceful existence up to this particular night, Mr Quieroz said there had been a “few episodes” on the street whilst he was making food deliveries.

“When those street gangs, I tried to avoid them and go a different direction because once a few people threw stones at me; sometimes it was difficult,” he said.

Mr Quieroz agreed that his preference was to make food deliveries in the Rathmines area rather than Dublin 3 as it was safer and quieter.

When asked to describe the atmosphere for Deliveroo drivers in Dublin 3, the witness said: “I would describe it as dangerous. I knew that area was very dangerous for delivery. Sometimes before this we had an episode about a delivery man killed by a car. Everyone is concerned about delivery in that area [sic].”

The witness agreed that this man was Thiago Cortes, who Mr Dwyer said had been killed by a “joyrider” at East Wall, some half a kilometre from where this happened. “I knew about the age of the driver but didn’t know the location,” he replied.

“Were you aware he left the scene after striking Thiago with his friends in the car?” asked the barrister. “Yes, I’ve heard about it,” replied the witness.

Mr Dwyer asked the witness if it was true to say that food delivery riders had a WhatsApp group to communicate with each other about “trouble spots or danger areas” in Dublin in order to protect themselves.

“Yes, we used to exchange information if someone saw a group, just to avoid the area, they used clothes like North Face,” he said.

The witness agreed that the types of clothes these people wore would help the Deliveroo drivers identify trouble. “Then I saw this group of people,” he added.

Mr Quieroz also agreed that the major problem was that bicycles were being stolen from food delivery cyclists who were trying to make a living. “Yes, we used to have messages about what was going on,” he recalled.

The witness said that delivery cyclists also used to post in these groups if someone had a bike stolen or would post a photo of the stolen bike.

“Others could help and call gardai. People would be on the lookout for it. For people who work with it, the bike was very expensive. If this happens we lose our bikes and then cannot work,” he explained.

When asked if these WhatsApp groups also discuss other incidents like assault, Mr Quieroz said if people were aggressive towards the riders then they would post the area of where the incident happened in WhatsApp.

The witness agreed that there were certain areas in Dublin that he didn’t like to work in saying: “There were updates on WhatsApp about the particular locations around the city that were creating the danger”.

Mr Quieroz said he went back to work as a food cyclist in Rathmines for a few days after this event before leaving Ireland, which he had already been thinking about prior to 26 January.

The witness said he also worked in a factory at the time but was “very afraid” as many people were from “the area” which could have been “related to” this incident.

Recalling the night, he said: I had my face very damaged and was really afraid of leaving home. I stayed at home for at least 20 days”.

When asked if the reason he left Ireland was because of this event, Mr Quieroz said: “Well I have to say this episode was really traumatic for me. I had help from a Brazilian dentist who fixed my teeth and a psychologist. Even though I had help I couldn’t feel safe so we decided to go”.

Asked if he and Mr Bento had tried to leave the location to avoid a fight with the group, Mr Quieroz said he really thought about leaving when he saw “the gang” coming but was googling on his phone at the time and was wearing two pairs of trousers and snow boots. “I thought about running but I knew if I ran they would catch me from the back,” he said.

Recalling his memory of these events, the witness said: “At the time I felt very scared, I was really afraid, every time I remember I get afraid”.

He added: “I’ve been dealing with heavy help from a psychologist. The psychologist says I blame myself because I didn’t run away. I still have insomnia, I dream about it, it’s really hard. I take some pills but I’m working on it,” he said.

Mr Quieroz told the jury this afternoon that: “At the moment I was being hit I was afraid of dying”. He continued: “I didn’t have experience. I was aware of these aggressions with drivers being killed”.

The accused agreed that at some point during the altercation he saw Mr Bento with a knife in his hand. Asked by Mr Dwyer if he could remember at what stage in the altercation had he seen this, he said it was a few seconds “before the attack”.

Mr Dwyer asked the witness to focus on Mr Bento’s production of the knife in the CCTV footage and when the man on the moped reached his right hand into his back pocket. “The defence case is that George took out his knife just after this moped man went for his right back pocket,” said counsel.

The barrister put it to the witness that Mr Bento had produced the knife in response to the threat from the man on the moped and then placed it back in his pocket. Mr Quieroz said he thought he remembered Mr Bento putting the knife back into his pocket at some stage.

Mr Quieroz said he can no longer play sport because of dislocating his knee.

When asked to describe those who had attacked him in his statement, the witness agreed that he told gardai that “some of them” were wearing North Face clothes.

Mr Quieroz agreed that he also said in his statement that it was “never our intention to cause harm to anyone” and “we could have caused this guy on the moped harm as there were two of us and he was alone’.

In his opening address, Mr Guerin told the jury that they may have to consider the issue of self-defence as Mr Bento had “invoked a fear” for himself and his friend when interviewed by gardai.

Mr Bento 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.

The trial continues tomorrow before Mr Justice Paul Burns and a jury of five men and seven women.