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Stephen Penrose

Phone of man accused of murder connected to cell site close to where body was found, jury hears

Stephen Penrose is charged with the murder of Philip Finnegan in Kildare in 2016.

A PHONE BELONGING to a man who denies decapitating his friend connected to a cell site close to the area where the victim’s body was found, a murder trial jury has heard.

Evidence has been given that the accused Stephen Penrose’s phone made a data connection at a cell site, which covered the area of Rahin in Edenderry, Co Offaly on the afternoon of 10 August 2016. The Central Criminal Court trial also heard that the last activity on the deceased’s phone identified two cell sites in Edenderry on the same afternoon.

Penrose (38), of Newtown Court, Malahide Road, Coolock, Dublin 17, has pleaded not guilty to murdering Philip Finnegan (24) at Rahin Woods, Rahin, Edenderry, Co Kildare on 10 August 2016.

The trial has heard that Finnegan went missing before his decapitated body was found buried in a shallow grave in a Kildare woods. The accused man, who was representing himself in the trial, has hired new lawyers but has declined to continue attending his trial.

Giving evidence today, Michael Finnerty, who is a phone expert with Eircom, told prosecuting counsel John Berry BL that no calls “landed” on Finnegan’s phone after 4.02pm on 10 August.

Phone engineer Conor O’Callaghan testified that Finnegan made an outgoing call at 11.15am on 10 August which used a cell site at Liffey Valley fitness centre in Clondalkin.

The next cell site used by Finnegan’s phone was in Edenderry at 3.37pm on the same day. The last activity on Finnegan’s phone identified two cell sites at Edenderry and Edenderry water tower at 3.44pm and 3.46pm that day, said Berry.

The trial has heard that Philip Finnegan’s mother, Angela Finnegan, tried to call her son at 4.40pm on 10 August but his phone was off.

In his opening address, prosecution counsel Brendan Grehan SC said the State considered this significant in terms of what the jury will have to consider on the potential time of death. “Gardaí found out through the mobile phone operator that Finnegan’s phone was last used in Edenderry in Co Offaly, which is directly south of Rahin Woods,” pointed out Grehan.

Having analysed Penrose’s phone, O’Callaghan said one of the phones attributed to the accused used a cell site at Liffey Valley fitness centre at 11.15am on 10 August.

Another phone belonging to Penrose made a connection with a cell site at Edenderry water tower on the east side of Edenderry at 3.48pm that day. A few minutes later at 3.54pm, the same phone communicated with a mast at Monasteroris in Edenderry, Co Offaly. A text message was sent from Penrose’s phone at 4.07pm on 10 August which also pinged off a mast in Monasteroris.

The court heard that a call was made by Penrose’s phone at 4.53pm and it connected with a cell site at ESB in Russellswood in Co Meath, which is north of the River Boyne and covers the Rahin Woods area.

At 5.19pm and 6.05pm, the cell sites used by the accused’s phone was in Moyvalley in Co Kildare.

Penrose’s phone made a call at 6.09pm, Berry said, and this made a further data connection at a cell site located at the centre of Enfield in Co Meath. This was the last outgoing call made on the accused’s phone that day, the court heard.

Evidence has already been given from Inspector Aidan Hannon that he seized two phones from Penrose on 13 August.

Earlier, healthcare assistant Zonghang Li testified that he assisted a nurse with a male patient at Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown on 10 August. Li said the patient he was attending to had “clothes that were cut in a bag” but he did not notice anything on the clothes. The witness said the man on the stretcher had asked him to put the clothes in the bin and he did what he was asked.

Under cross-examination, Li agreed with Anthony Sammon SC, defending, that a nurse had also asked him to throw the man’s clothes in the bin.

The trial continues tomorrow before Justice Alexander Owens and the 12 jurors.

In his opening address, prosecuting barrister, Grehan, said Finnegan’s decapitated body was found buried in a shallow grave in a Kildare woods. Counsel said Finnegan had “certain troubles in the past” and had taken to wearing a protective vest.

The lawyer also told the jury in his opening address that attempts had been made to cut up and burn the body of Finnegan, who had been missing for almost a month and who had met a “gruesome death”.

Significantly, the barrister said, the jury will hear evidence that a bloodied glove was found in the woods which was a DNA match to the accused man Penrose.

Alison O'Riordan