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Key witness failed to give evidence in Aaron Brady trial after receiving threats, High Court judge hears

Colin Hoey had initially provided an alibi for Aaron Brady but later retracted it.

Image: Laura Hutton via RollingNews.ie

A KEY WITNESS failed to give evidence in the trial of Aaron Brady for the murder of Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe after receiving threats “backed by criminal or paramilitary elements”, a High Court judge has heard.

Father-of-two Colin Hoey (30) was today jailed for 21 days and fined €2,000 for contempt of court. Hoey, with an address at O’Neill Estate, Cregganduff, Co Armagh, pleaded guilty to the charge after failing to appear to answer a witness order during the trial of Aaron Brady.

Hoey had initially provided an alibi for Aaron Brady but later retracted it.

Justice Michael White said this morning that he was sure threats issued to Hoey and his family in advance of the Brady trial had been taken “quite seriously” by them. He noted that Hoey was a “very decent young man” from a “very decent family” who had been caught up in a “very difficult situation”.

A bench warrant was issued for Hoey by trial judge Mr Justice White on 5 March this year and he was arrested by gardaí on 5 October after presenting himself at the Criminal Courts of Justice. The High Court has heard that the offence is punishable by imprisonment, fine or both.

Aaron Brady was found guilty of the murder of Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe by an 11 to one majority jury verdict at the Central Criminal Court on 11 August.

Last month, the 29-year-old with a last address at New Road, Crossmaglen, Co Armagh was sentenced to the mandatory term for murder of life imprisonment with a minimum time served of 40 years. Brady was also sentenced to 14 years for the robbery of €7,000 – a sentence that will run concurrently with the life sentence – at Lordship Credit Union in Bellurgen, Co Louth on 25 January 2013.

During hearings at Brady’s trial, Detective Inspector Mark Phillips of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation said that Hoey was a witness of “some significance” who had provided an alibi for Aaron Brady but had later withdrawn that alibi.

At today’s contempt hearing in the High Court, Remy Farrell SC, for Hoey, told Mr Justice White that the charge of contempt against his client was admitted.

Taking the witness stand, Detective Inspector Phillips told prosecution counsel Brendan Grehan SC that Hoey had “significant evidence” to give at Brady’s trial if he had attended.

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Under cross-examination, Detective Inspector Phillips agreed with Farrell that “certain elements” had made contact with Hoey and his father in advance of Brady’s trial and “these elements” had intimated that it might not be in Hoey’s best interest to attend Brady’s trial.

Farrell put it to the witness that whatever was said had certainly caused Hoey and his family to take the view that these were “implicit threats” backed by criminal or paramilitary elements. “I’m not party to the conversation that took place but ultimately he did not appear to give evidence,” replied Detective Inspector Phillips.

At a brief hearing last month, Detective Garda Padraic O’Reilly testified that Hoey was informed on 3 March 2020 that he was required to attend the Criminal Courts of Justice the following day to give evidence in the Brady trial and if he did not show up a bench warrant would be issued. However, the witness did not attend court on 4 March and a bench warrant was issued by trial judge Mr Justice White on 5 March. Attempts were made by gardaí to execute the warrant after this date, the High Court was told.

However, solicitor Danny McNamee, for Hoey, made contact with gardaí in early October and informed them that his client wished to present himself for the execution of the warrant. Hoey presented himself at the Criminal Courts of Justice on 5 October and the warrant was executed.

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Alison O'Riordan

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