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Patricia O'Connor murder trial: How the jury decided on the cover-up

Father-of-three Kieran Greene was found guilty of the murder of the 61-year-old on Tuesday.

Image: Garda Press Office
“ALL HAPPY FAMILIES are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”.

Stephanie O’Connor’s barrister Garnet Orange began his closing speech to the jury with a fitting quote from Anna Karenina, summing up the variety of unhappinesses they heard had existed in the house at Mountainview Park.

Stephanie was “the girl with the odd coloured hair”, Mr Orange pointed out, and was accused of disguising herself as her dead grandmother as a “ruse” to conceal her death.

While the trial judge charged the jury, Stephanie read To Kill a Mockingbird as she sat in the dock, flanked by her parents.

At 10.10pm on the night of 29 May, 2017 Stephanie logged on to her laptop and watched YouTube videos and Anime cartoons. An hour later, she sent her CV to Penneys in the hopes of securing a job.

By this stage, her grandmother had been murdered by her mother’s partner Kieran Greene. Her body remained in the house.

Senior Counsel Roisin Lacey told the jury that earlier that evening, between 9:15 and 9:21pm, “a plan was hatched” to have Stephanie pretend to “storm out of the house” in the guise of her dead grandmother.

Stephanie firmly placed herself inside the house at 9.34pm that night but CCTV footage covering the rear of the property showed this to be a lie. On the footage, she can be seen discussing something in the back garden with her mother Louise and murderer Kieran Greene.

CCTV footage seized from a neighbour’s security system became a central plank in the prosecution case, as the system covered both the front and back of Mrs O’Connor’s home. However, the evidence differed as to how much the family were aware a camera covered both entrances.

Louise O’Connor expressed surprise and anger when gardai showed her clips from the camera offering a view of the rear of the O’Connor house, while Stephanie claimed she knew her neighbour’s CCTV covered both the front and back garden.

The jury agreed with the prosecution case that a woman wearing a dark green hooded jacket and carrying a black suitcase, recorded on CCTV footage leaving the house at 9.34pm, was Stephanie pretending to be her grandmother Mrs O’Connor.

The figure in the footage wore jeans and a hooded jacket and had moved in a “very sprightly manner”, which was very different to Mrs O’Connor’s deportment, the jury heard.

“The hood is up for a purpose and serves to disguise the hair and any potential for distinguishing the facial features of the person leaving the house,” Ms Lacey outlined.

Patricia O’Connor, the trial heard, was wearing a “flowery frock” when she was last seen alive.

The Jigsaw

This “charade” was a key part of what the State described to the jury as a “jigsaw”; a “coherent narrative made up of different actors” who acted in concert in the aftermath of Patricia O’Connor’s murder.

Kieran Greene gave two differing accounts of Mrs O’Connor’s death.

In an interview with gardai in June 2017, Greene said that Patricia had attacked him with a hurley in the downstairs bathroom of the house. He maintained that he had disarmed her and acted in self-defence by hitting her and, as a result of that, she may have died.

After the struggle he said he passed out and woke up to find “blood everywhere”.

Six months later, Greene claimed he was not responsible for Mrs O’Connor’s death and that her husband Augustine ‘Gus’ O’Connor had killed her with a crowbar.

Despite Greene’s claim that there was “blood everywhere” in the bathroom, there was a complete lack of forensic evidence in the house at Mountainview Park.

Forensic scientist John Hoade said that he found no blood on an examination of either the downstairs bathroom or the deceased’s bedroom upstairs, where Kieran Greene claimed he had moved Mrs O’Connor’s body to after the altercation in the bathroom.

Detective Garda Jeanette O’Neill, a scenes of crimes examiner, said there was no signs of a struggle and she noted that attempts had been made to paint the bathroom and hallway of the house.

“I don’t know if it was a bad job or was done quickly but it was not a good job,” she pointed out. The shower area of the bathroom had also been recently tiled, she said.

Greene told gardai that he had used a mop, hot water and bleach to clean away the blood on some tiles nearest the shower step in the bathroom, where he said the altercation took place. He said he had thrown out the mop in the mountains and touched up some of the rooms with paint.

No blood was found inside Mrs O’Connor’s Toyota Corolla car or in its boot, in which Kieran Greene said he had used to transport her intact body to Wexford.

He also said he had gotten rid of the boot mat from the car by disposing of it up the mountains.

There was also no blood on a child’s hurley or on any clothes belonging to Kieran Greene.

He said he had thrown the clothes he was wearing during the incident on a roadside. Ms Lacey said no “gore” was found at the shallow grave site in Wexford but a ground sheet purchased in a DIY store has never been found and the jury was invited to draw an inference from that.

Kieran Greene could not give gardai any extra help when they complained that, despite one hundred people searching the area, they could not find the tools or clothes he claimed he had flung out of his car in the Wicklow mountains.

Greene was seen on CCTV footage closing the curtains at the back of house on May 29 at 6.52pm. A minute later, Louise O’Connor, Stephanie O’Connor and some of the children left the house to go to the park.

Evidence was given that when gardai asked Louise in her interviews why she had left the house to go to the park, she replied that she wanted “to get peace from my mum”.

When gardai asked Louise whether they had left the house to get “permanent peace”, she denied this, stating: “If you are saying we left so he [Kieran Greene] could do something, you’re sadly mistaken”.

Mrs O’Connor’s husband Augustine ‘Gus’ O’Connor left the house at 6.56pm. Kieran Greene was next seen opening the curtains at the rear of the house at 8.44pm. Louise, Stephanie and the children returned to the house at 9.04pm that night.

Stephanie told gardai that she was in the sitting room for 10 to 20 minutes after she came in from the park and she had heard her grandmother “storm out” of the house.

Charade

In her closing speech, Ms Lacey said that Stephanie entered into “a charade” by disguising herself as her grandmother to create “an indelible record” on the CCTV footage that Mrs O’Connor was actually “alive and well” when she walked out of the house at 9.34pm that night.

She submitted that this was done in case it was needed to bolster any statements to anybody who was legitimately looking for Mrs O’Connor or if she was reported as a missing person down the line.

At 10.05pm a female figure, a coat draped over her arm and carrying a suitcase, entered the rear of Mountainview Park through the back door. Patricia’s son Richard O’Connor confirmed to the trial that this figure was his niece Stephanie.

Stephanie later accepted in a garda interview that it was her re-entering the house at 10.05pm.

Stephanie told gardai that the footage showed her coming from the garden shed but she could not remember how she got out there. She said she was bringing in a bag from the shed for her mother Louise.

“It’s just a bag from the shed…my Mam asked me to bring it in… I do what I’m told,” she told detectives.

A black suitcase with a distinctive label was later found in Gus O’Connor’s bedroom on 21 June and the prosecution maintained that this was the same “prop” that Stephanie had been carrying on May 29.

The prosecution told the jury that, crucially, there was no usage of Stephanie’s laptop from 9pm until 10.10pm on the night, as this coincided with the period of time when they said was out of the house disguised as her grandmother.

The prosecution said the cases against Stephanie and her mother Louise were “inextricably linked” and Louise was “an integral part” of the ruse and had acted in support of her daughter.

There was no direct evidence of Louise agreeing or acquiescing to what Stephanie did.

However, the State argued that Louise was quite clear with interviewing gardai that the CCTV footage showed her mother leaving the house at 9.34pm, and therefore she had lied to authorities.

Kieran Greene was seen driving Patricia O’Connor’s Toyota Corolla car into Texaco Spawell Service Station in Templeogue at 2.16am in the early hours of 30 May, where he put €40 worth of fuel into the car and bought an LED light.

It was the prosecution’s case that this was the father-of-three on his way to Wexford to bury the body of Mrs O’Connor, which he had previously placed in the boot of the car. The car was later seen reversing into the driveway of Mountainview Park at 5.54am that morning.

Kieran Greene was then seen placing a pair of shoes on a bin at the side of house at 6.10am and putting items of clothing into black bin bags.

Keith Johnston, who was the former partner of Louise and the father of Stephanie, was recorded on CCTV in Mountainview Park carrying out work in the house in the days after Mrs O’Connor disappeared.

In the CCTV footage, Keith Johnston was seen carrying a piece of timber as well as fixing a press on the afternoon of 1 June. The following evening, he could be seen carrying a plank of wood into the rear of the house.

The handyman was also seen on CCTV in the company of Kieran Greene, who was buying “highly specialised tools” in various DIY shops on 9 June, the day before Mrs O’Connor’s body was found dismembered in the Wicklow mountains.

Keith Johnston accepted in his interviews with gardai that he had gone on this “shopping spree” with Kieran Greene but said it was to replace “lost or damaged tools”.

He told gardai he had not “put two and two together” and did not know why Kieran Greene bought these items.

The prosecution said these purchases which included two hacksaws, a tenon saw, two small axes, rubble bags, a light duty protection sheet, a petrol can, utility knives, 30 extra-strong black rubbish sacks, two pairs of builders’ brick gloves, two pairs of green wellington boots and a tow rope formed “a very important part in the chain of evidence” and that both Kieran Greene and Keith Johnston were acting in concert in the purchase of those items.

It was the prosecution’s case against Keith Johnston that he knew or believed that DIY tools were purchased to be used in the dismemberment of Mrs O’Connor.

Johnston claimed he did not know why Kieran Greene had bought these items and could not shed any light on it.

Significantly in his initial interviews, Johnston failed to mention going to B&Q, Woodies, Mr Price and Shoezone, where he was seen on CCTV with Greene purchasing these items.

At the outset of the trial, it was the State’s contention that Keith Johnston had also redecorated the bathroom at Mountainview Park in order to destroy or conceal any evidence relating to the murder of Mrs O’Connor.

Keith Johnston said he noticed a piece of wood had gone wet and soft in the bathroom on 1 June, the day he found out Patricia O’Connor was missing. He told gardai that he helped to fix the shower step over the next few days because he thought Mrs O’Connor would be back with an eviction notice.

The trained tiler maintained the shower step had been broken for the last year saying; “I know it looks bad but that is just the way it is.”

“I kind of thought when doing that, that I could be potentially cleaning up a crime scene,” Johnston told gardai.

At certain points in his interviews, Johnston became aggressive with gardai and insisted it was not the first time he had redecorated the house at Mountainview Park.

He told them:

So don’t start saying I did that one thing to make it look like I was up to something, as that is not the case.

Gardai asked Johnston why had he not told them about the items purchased on 9 June in his voluntary statement.

“I told you already where I was…..I know for a fact I said B&Q and Woodies; fuck off, lying swines,” he replied.

Detectives told Johnston that they had asked him specifically what he did on June 9 and he had not told them. “I fucking did, I told these two coppers in Rathfarnham,” he stressed.

Gardai put it to Johnston that the tools concerned were the exact tools needed to chop up a body but he told gardai to stop twisting his words. He said he had not denied anything to them about the “shopping spree” and “honestly didn’t remember” until it was put to him. “Your twisting everything, making up your own theories that we all murderers,” he said.

Johnston had the charge of refurbishing the bathroom in order to conceal evidence withdrawn by direction of trial judge Mr Justice Paul McDermott in the fifth week of the trial.

The jury also heard during the case that Augustine ‘Gus’ O’Connor was originally part of the trial but shortly before it began, he pleaded guilty to reporting his wife as a missing person to gardai at Rathfarnham Garda Station, Dublin 14 on June 1, 2017, knowing she was already dead.

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About the author:

Brian Kavanagh & Alison O'Riordan

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