Murder accused told victim’s partner he was having an affair, court hears Kenneth O’Brien’s partner “collapsed” on the floor of her home after she was told he was having an affair by the man accused of murdering him, the Central Criminal Court has heard.

Kenneth O’Brien. Photo: Colin Keegan
Kenneth O’Brien. Photo: Colin Keegan

Andrew Phelan

  • Murder accused told victim’s partner he was having an affair, court hears
    Kenneth O’Brien’s partner “collapsed” on the floor of her home after she was told he was having an affair by the man accused of murdering him, the Central Criminal Court has heard.
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Kenneth O’Brien’s partner “collapsed” on the floor of her home after she was told he was having an affair by the man accused of murdering him, the Central Criminal Court has heard.

Eimear Dunne told a jury she was “up the walls” when murder accused Paul Wells told her Mr O’Brien, who had gone missing, was seeing someone else.

She had just been sent a text, claiming to be from Mr O’Brien, saying he was leaving her.

Ms Dunne was giving evidence at Mr Wells’ trial today.

The accused, of Barnamore Park, Finglas has pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr O’Brien (33) at that address between January 15 and 16, 2016.

Mr Wells (50) admitted to gardai that he shot him dead but said it happened when they struggled during a row after Mr O’Brien turned up at his home with a gun.

Mr O’Brien had wanted to have his own partner Eimear Dunne murdered and Mr Wells refused to kill her, the accused maintained.

He said he “panicked” and dismembered Mr O’Brien’s remains, which were later found in a suitcase and shopping bags in the Grand Canal in Co Kildare.

Ms Dunne told the court today she had been in a relationship with Mr O’Brien “for a long time” – since she was 16, and they bought their Lealand Road, Clondalkin home together.

Mr O’Brien, a JCB driver and car mechanic, had always been a very hard worker. She said she knew two people he worked with, who she named.

They rented a yard in Ardclough, Co Kildare, and they used to fix and service cars, she said.

Mr Dunne and Mr O’Brien’s son Charlie was born in 2011. She agreed with prosecutor Sean Gillane that her relationship with Mr O’Brien had had ups and downs “like everyone”.

In 2010, she found out Mr O’Brien was seeing someone else and confronted him and “the other party.”

“I had a feeling and I went on my feeling,” she told the court.

After that, she had their son and things got “10 times better”. Mr O’Brien’s relationship with his son had been “brilliant,” she said.

In 2013, he decided to go to Australia because he “wanted to make enough money to take something off the mortgage,” she said.

When he first went out he struggled to get work and did not like being away from the house or his son. He returned six to seven weeks later but went back to Australia later that year with a “definite job.” He worked in Australia for a company and his boss was a man called John, but she did not recall his surname.

While in Australia, Mr O’Brien returned every Christmas and for his son’s birthday in 2014 and 2015. She went to Australia at one point with their son for 10 or 11 days.

Ms Dunne was a care worker and her son was in pre-school in 2015. Mr O’Brien sent money back home every month for the mortgage and their son’s creche.

Coming to the end of 2015, he decided he wanted to come home for good, she said.

Mr Gillane asked how things were between them at the time, and between Mr O’Brien and his son.

“Great,” she replied. “Brilliant, we were getting on.”

They went to family occasions over Christmas and Mr O’Brien told her he was not actively looking for work because he did not need to.

“He obviously had money coming home,” she told Mr Gillane.

There were arrangements for Ms Dunne’s 30th birthday that Friday, but Mr O’Brien asked her to put it off to Saturday because he told her he had a job digging out a car park “down the country” on Friday.

She later found out this job was cancelled.

They went to the cinema at Liffey Valley on Thursday and she did not notice anything “untoward or unusual.”

The next morning when their son woke up at around 6am, Mr O’Brien went to to sleep in their son’s bed which she thought was “a bit unusual” because “once he’s up he’s up for the day.”

She got ready for work and their son ready to to go to her mother’s.

“I went in to Ken to tell him I was going,” she recalled. “I gave him a kiss, gave him a hug, I said I would see him later. Charlie did the same.”

“He said don’t forget I’ll be late tonight,” she said.

There were text messages back and forward between them that day, he asked her if she got to work alright, she continued.

She agreed it was “ordinary banter.”

It continued up to 1.30pm and after that she heard nothing.

She texted him once or twice after and there was no reply.

She said she rang him at 3.30pm and his phone was off, which was unusual.

She texted him again later that evening and “I think I tried ringing him again and his phone was still off.”

She went to bed and after 3.30am, she received a text from a number she did not recognise.

“Lost my phone today, I’m staying in a hotel tonight, having a drink, talk tomorrow,” the text said.

“That was not like him to be going out with his work clothes for a drink,” she said but thought he could have lost his phone and it could have been his boss texting and “I put it down to that.”

At 7.49am, she got another text from the same number.

“So here it is,” the text read. “I am heading for the ferry today, I can’t handle being home and want out. You care more about Zac and your family than me anyway, so f**k the lot. I met someone else, she came to Ireland yesterday. I met her today and I’m going with her.”

There was a reference to their son and to getting his “gear” when he was sorted, and the text said there was no point in talking to her.

“All I would get anyway is a row. I’ve had to spoof everyone to do this but this girl will put it right. I’ll be in touch. Bye.”

She replied straight away, then was looking at the text.

“I said, that is not right,” she told the court.

“Zac” was spelled wrong, there were no full stops and there were double spaces between words. There was no capital letter for Ireland.

“It’s not Ken,” she said. “Ken was very particular abut his text messages. That is not him that texted me.”

“Gear is not a word that he would use and spoof is definitely not a word that Kenneth O’Brien would use,” she said.

She looked around the house to see if anything was gone. She could not find his passport, and his work boots, a shirt, watch and jumper was gone but all his other clothes were in the wardrobe and his tools, laptop and iPad were still there.

“His toothbrush was still there, he wouldn’t go anywhere without his toothbrush, especially if he was running off with somebody,” she said.

Mr Dunne said she rang people who knew Mr O’Brien, eventually getting in touch with Mr Wells, who was “a friend of Ken’s” around midday.

She told him Mr O’Brien had not come home and asked if he knew what was going on.

“Paul basically said look, he’s seeing somebody else,” she said.

Asked how she reacted, she said: “badly.”

“He said he was after meeting somebody over in Australia and he was seeing her for a good while before he came home and he didn’t want to come home,” she told the court.

“I was fairly well up the walls,” she said of her reaction.

“I think I collapsed on the floor because I could hear him screaming on the phone: ‘what’s going on over there?’”

“I picked up the phone and said I just can’t believe what you’re after telling me and he said I’ll be over in a few minutes.”

Her evidence was continuing this afternoon.

Earlier, the jury heard DNA matching Mr O’Brien’s was found on bloodstained carpets and a radiator from Mr Wells’s shed and car boot liner, as well as from part of a chainsaw found in the canal. A forensic scientist found it most likely that mixed DNA on a chainsaw came from sources including Mr O’Brien and Mr Wells.

Rodney Lakes of Forensic Science Ireland, said Mr O’Brien’s DNA profile, taken from the torso found in the suitcase, had half the elements present in that of his mother. This was what he would expect from a biological son.

He then gave evidence of blood stains and the presence of blood found in Mr Wells shed and Audi A3.

Two blood stains were found on the blue liner of his car. In the shed, using luminol chemical spray and a blue light, blood was found to be present on a carpet mat, as well as on a layer of carpet on the floor, the concrete floor underneath and a piece of plastic.

A blood stain was visible to the naked eye on one of the fins of an electric radiator in the shed.

When he tested the blood found in the boot liner of Mr Wells’ car, it matched the DNA profile of Kenneth O’Brien. Mr Lakes said he found white fatty tissue adhering to the area around the chainsaw motor. This was analysed and matched the DNA profile of Mr O’Brien.

The chainsaw’s pull starter rope had a mixed DNA profile with at least three contributors and he found it most likely that this mixture originated from the accused, Mr O’Brien and a third unknown person.

There was insufficient material to generate a DNA profile from the chainsaw chain, which was rusty and had vegetation adhering to it. There was also insufficient material on the cable ties and bag handles, as well as the layers of carpet and a piece of plastic from Mr Wells’ shed

A partial DNA profile matching Mr O’Brien’s was found on the top handle and straps of the suitcase.

The blood stain on the carpet from the shed had a DNA profile matching Mr O’Brien’s, as did the blood stain on the electric radiator.

Online Editors

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