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Man who helped criminal organisation murder Sunset House manager sentenced

Michael Barr was shot seven times by a masked gunman on 25 April 2016.

Image: Shutterstock/Zolnierek

A MAN WHO helped a criminal organisation murder a Dublin bar manager has been sentenced to three years and nine months by the Special Criminal Court in what is believed to be one of the first convictions of its kind. 

Michael Barr (35), the manager of the Sunset House in Dublin’s north inner city, was shot seven times by a masked gunman at the pub over two years ago.

Martin Aylmer (31), of Casino Park, Marino, Dublin 3 pleaded guilty in July to participating in or contributing to activity intending to facilitate the commission by a criminal organisation or any of its members of a serious offence, namely the murder of Barr at the Sunset House, Summerhill Parade, Dublin 1 on 25 April 2016.

This is believed to be the first time a person has been prosecuted for this offence under the organised crime legislation brought in 2006.

The court heard that gardaí recovered a mobile phone beside the partially burned out getaway car following the murder and CCTV footage later showed Aylmer buying the phone in Dublin’s Ilac Shopping Centre two days before Barr was shot dead.

The offences occurred between 23 April and 25 April 2016.

‘Serious criminal activity’

Justice Tony Hunt, presiding at the three-judge court, said that it appeared the actionable assistance rendered by Aylmer was not at the higher end of the scale.

The judge said that while the provision of any assistance to a criminal organisation is a grave matter, Aylmer did not approach this in a covert or disguised manner.

His unsophisticated approach left him open to identification and demonstrated an absence of calculation or guile.

He said it could not be established that Aylmer knew he was making a contribution to the crime of murder and there was no evidence on his part of moving firearms. However, the judge said it must have been apparent to him that he was assisting in some serious criminal activity.

Hunt said the maximum sentence was 15 years in prison but the headline sentence in this case was five years imprisonment.

Hunt said the most significant mitigating factor in Aylmer’s sentence was his early guilty plea and for this he was entitled to “a straight discount of 25%” which reduced the five year sentence to three years and nine months.

Another factor in mitigation, the judge said was the fact he was a relatively young man without a serious criminal record and future rehabilitation remained a live issue in this case. Aylmer has two previous convictions for minor public order issues which Justice Hunt said were not relevant. 

Sentencing the defendant today, Justice Hunt, presiding, sitting with Judge Sinead Ní Chulachain and Judge Cormac Dunne, sentenced Aylmer to three years and nine months imprisonment with one year suspended. “It is appropriate he should serve the last portion of his sentence in the community,” he said.

The judge said that the result of this sentence was that anyone who assists a criminal organisation of this kind even with the benefit of a guilty plea can expect a sentence. “He is fortunate in the mitigation he had available to him and his guilty plea, otherwise he would be getting the full five years,” added Justice Hunt.

The judge also said that there was no evidence that Aylmer knew the murder was going to be committed so this also placed it at the lower end of the scale.

The judge said the court had already expressed their condolences to the deceased’s family at the conclusion of a previous trial. Eamonn Cumberton (30), of Mountjoy Street, Dublin 7, was jailed for life by the Special Criminal Court in January of this year after being found guilty of the murder of Barr.

‘A significant case’

Speaking outside the Criminal Courts of Justice today, Chief Superintendent Sean Ward said he was “precluded to some extent” from commenting as there is still a live investigation into the murder of Barr and gardaí ”still have two individuals to speak to”.

“This is a significant case in conviction for the community in Dublin’s north-east inner city which has suffered considerably over the last number of years as a result of this criminal activity.”

“It also demonstrates that individuals who participate in activities that facilitate the commission of a serious crime by a criminal organisation will be fully investigated and every effort will be made by An Garda Siochana to get the evidence we require to bring before the courts as happened in today’s case.”

“There is no doubt that individuals that engage in serious crime do look for individuals to support them logistically and that would include accessing mobile phones as was today’s case and it is therefore important that people considering engaging in that activity should think twice as we will pursue those individuals and bring them before the courts,” he said. 

Chief Superintended Ward added that he thought this was the second time this offence has been brought before the courts and he hoped this message would “get out” to people who are thinking of engaging in this activity. 

Sentence Hearing

At the sentence hearing on 1 October, Detective Garda David Chapman of Bridewell Garda Station, summarised the facts of the case.

Chapman told prosecuting counsel, Dominic McGinn SC, that the garda investigation began with the fatal shooting of Barr on 25 April.

Barr was the manager of the Sunset House pub and was present at the premises on the night. Two men wearing masks entered the pub armed with firearms around 9.30pm that night.

One of the gunmen came into the premises to fire the shots and the other gunman stayed at the door. Barr was standing at the bar and he was shot seven times.

Two gunmen fled the scene in an Audi A6, which was driven by another man. CCTV footage tracked this car to Walsh Road in Drumcondra, Dublin 9 where an attempt was made to set fire to it.

Gardaí arrived very soon afterwards and extinguished the fire before it had taken hold of the car and a lot of evidence was gleaned from it.

Rubber masks, boiler suits, coats and scarfs were found in the car which were consistent with the two gunmen going into the pub.

A number of firearms were found in the car including a round which had been discharged from one of the firearms which had been used to kill Barr.

It also became apparent to gardaí arriving on the scene that a mobile phone had been dropped by one of the gunmen beside the getaway car and a number of calls had been made to it.

According to Chapman, investigations were made into this mobile phone and it was discovered that it had been purchased two days previously by Aylmer in an outlet in the Ilac Shopping Centre.

CCTV was obtained from these premises and it became clear that Aylmer had purchased this mobile phone as well as two other phones at the same time. The three phones were prepaid and unregistered phones.

On that date, the court heard, CCTV footage showed Aylmer, who was wearing a shiny, “bubble-type” dark jacket and a baseball cap embossed with the letters ‘NY’, entering another mobile phone shop on Moore Street in Dublin, where a further three mobile phones were bought.

CCTV footage also established that Aylmer arrived at the Ilac Shopping Centre in a Toyota Corolla at 11.17am on 23 April to purchase the first set of mobile phones. He was not wearing a baseball cap when he exited the car but put one on afterwards.

Following this, gardaí established that this car was registered to Aylmer and Garda Stephen Faulkner identified Aylmer.

It was also established through CCTV footage that the Audi A6 had started its journey to the Sunset House pub on the evening of 25 April from a lock-up premises on the North Circular Road.

This premises was searched on 20 May, a month after the event, and a number of firearms as well as cleaning products were found there. A bottle of bleach was also found with Aylmer’s fingerprint on it.

CCTV footage was obtained of the lock-up premises, which Aylmer was identified visiting on three occasions on 24 April. As a result, Aylmer was arrested at his home on 17 June. He was interviewed by gardaí on a number of occasions but chose to exercise his right to silence.

When asked about his presence at the lock-up Aylmer told gardaí he had been there but he thought it was related to drug-type offences. Chapman said there was no evidence “whatsoever” of drug trafficking at the lock-up.

McGinn read two short victim impact statements from Barr’s relatives to the court. Jade O’Shea, Barr’s partner, said she had been with him for over four years, they were engaged to be married and had one child together. O’Shea said her life had been turned upside down since his murder and when their child asks about her father, it hurts her to tell her.

Noelle Barr, the older sister of the victim, said they were more like twins as they were very close in age. Barr said her brother relied on her a lot and his death has torn their lives apart.

He was a brilliant father to all his children and his death has destroyed us all.

Defence counsel Caroline Biggs, for Aylmer, said he was granted bail in April and he had honoured the stringent conditions set upon him.

Biggs said that mitigating factors included her client’s early plea , his cooperation and his lack of previous convictions.

In her submissions, Biggs said that Aylmer’s father passed away from cancer in 2013 and he had been very close to him. Aylmer resides with his mother and brother who is in a wheelchair following an accident a number of years ago.

Biggs said that her client was seen on CCTV purchasing the mobile phones and could be identified by gardaí through facial recognition, his car and clothing. This clothing was found when he was arrested at his flat, she added.

She agreed with Justice Hunt that Aylmer, who used to work for an electrical company, was “not in the premiership” in relation to organised crime. The judge told the court that the offence could not “avoid a custodial sentence because of the public attitude” to such crimes.

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Alison O'Riordan

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