Man who helped to dispose of weapon in midlands murder is released from prison
A man who had his murder conviction overturned by the Court of Appeal has been released from prison having spent nearly seven years in custody.
James Davy was originally convicted of the murder of 64-year-old Thomas 'Toddy' Dooley and was serving a life sentence but his conviction was overturned by the Court of Appeal and substituted with a conviction for assisting an offender.
Mr Justice Michael White at the Central Criminal Court yesterday (Thursday, September 2) sentenced Davy to nine years and said he has served his sentence and should be released, having gone into custody in November 2014.
Matthew Cummins, who also had his conviction for murdering Mr Dooley overturned by the Court of Appeal, will be sentenced for his part in the attempted cover-up in two weeks to allow time for a probation report to be prepared for the court.
Mr Justice White said that Cummins has convictions for burglary, arson, criminal damage and possession of a weapon that post-date his participation in attempting to cover up the murder. The judge also noted, however, that Cummins's behaviour in prison has been "quite exceptional" and the judge is considering suspending part of his sentence and running it concurrently with the sentence Cummins received for the other offences.
At yesterday's hearing Cummins's barrister Caroline Biggs SC said her client accepts responsibility for attempting to set fire to the deceased after Mr Dooley had been beaten to death by Sean Davy, a cousin of James Davy.
Padraig O'Dwyer SC for James Davy said his client had penned an apology to Mr Dooley's family and accepted responsibility for helping to dispose of certain items that were taken from Mr Dooley's home, including the baseball bat.
Mr Dooley was murdered at his home in Edenderry by Sean Davy (26) of Clonmullen Drive, Edenderry on February 12, 2014. Sean Davy was found guilty of the murder in 2016 and failed in a bid to have his conviction overturned by the Court of Appeal.
His trial heard that he beat Mr Dooley over the head eight times with a baseball bat and struck him twice in the torso. The 64-year-old victim was sitting in an armchair in his sitting room when Davy attacked him. He died from blunt force trauma wounds to the head while the injuries to his torso contributed to his death.
James Davy (30), of Thornhill Meadows, Celbridge, Co Kildare and Cummins (27), of Churchview Heights, Edenderry, Co Offaly were in the room when Mr Dooley was murdered but the Court of Appeal found that there was no evidence they were involved in a joint enterprise with Sean Davy to murder Mr Dooley.
The three-judge court found instead that they were guilty of a "reprehensible" attempt to cover up what had happened by burning the body and disposing of the weapon.
The court found both men were guilty of an offence under section 7.2 of the Criminal Law Act 1997 which makes it a crime to commit any act with the intent to impede the apprehension of another person who is guilty of an arrestable offence.
At yesterday's sentence hearing Detective Garda Joseph Hughes told prosecution counsel Patrick Treacy SC that Sean Davy, James Davy and Cummins had been drinking and taking cocaine before they decided to go to Mr Dooley's house in the early hours.
Mr Dooley was used to having young visitors at odd hours and sat and drank with the two men for a time. James Davy had a baseball bat with him, which he later told gardai he needed for his own protection. At some point Sean Davy took possession of the bat and used it to beat Mr Dooley to death.
When Mr Dooley's body was found some days later he was fully clothed, sitting in his armchair and there were scorch marks on the bottom of his trousers and on the armchair where Matthew Cummins had attempted to set the deceased on fire.
Before leaving Mr Dooley's home, the three men filled a plastic bag with various items from the house which they later disposed of in a clothes bin near to where Cummins was living in Granary Court in Edenderry. They also placed the baseball bat in the clothes bin.
Cummins, the garda said, has 69 previous convictions. Less than one month after Mr Dooley was murdered Cummins committed a number of offences including burglary, arson, possession of a weapon and criminal damage. He was sentenced to four years with the final two suspended for those offences and has been in custody since May 2014.
James Davy has 21 previous convictions including criminal damage, public order, assault, possession of a knife and burglary. None of his convictions post-date the offences relating to Mr Dooley.
Trial and appeal
The trial in 2016 heard that Matthew Cummins got into Mr Dooley's home through a window at about 5.30am on a cold, snowy morning. Cummins had been in Toddy's house before and knew him as a kind man who would always say hello.
Having climbed in the window Cummins opened another window to let the other two in. Toddy, who was described as "soft" by one garda witness, was used to having young visitors at irregular hours and did not object. He sat down in his armchair, opened a can of Budweiser and drank with the intruders.
At some point Sean Davy took the baseball bat and murdered Mr Dooley. The State had argued that all three men were equally guilty and were involved in a "joint enterprise" to murder Mr Dooley.
Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy, delivering the Court of Appeal's ruling earlier this year, said that "the manner of entry is not as sinister as might ordinarily be the case, in that this also must be examined in the context of the circumstances. It is apparent from the evidence that young people went into Mr Dooley’s house to socialise and used the window as the means of entry."
The three men gave different accounts of what happened in the house.
Matthew Cummins claimed that "out of the blue" Seán Davy walked up behind the 64-year-old and beat him on the back of the head with the bat, before coming around the armchair to continue the beating from the front.
Seán Davy claimed that James Davy was responsible for most of the blows, and that he himself struck Mr Dooley once, but "not full force". James Davy denied laying a hand on Mr Dooley, saying that Seán Davy beat him with the bat and Matthew Cummins kicked Mr Dooley but not with much force.
Caroline Biggs SC, for Cummins, had argued that at no stage during the trial had the DPP “pinned her colours to the mast” to say whether the case was one of joint enterprise or aiding and abetting.
“It was just throw enough mud at this case and it will stick,” she said.
Ms Biggs had argued that her case was not properly put to the jury by the judge and that the law regarding joint enterprise was also not properly explained.
Ms Justice Kennedy said it is essential that there be evidence of an agreement before there can be a joint enterprise.
She said the court could not agree with the DPP's assessment that the entry through the window and the introduction of the baseball bat together with other factors made it clear there was a tacit agreement to inflict serious harm on the deceased and thus there was evidence of a joint enterprise.
Addressing any evidence of joint-enterprise by the three men, Ms Justice Kennedy said: "The conduct of James Davy and Matthew Cummins in the aftermath of the murder of Mr Dooley was reprehensible. The efforts to burn the body, the stealing of property and the disposal of incriminating items are all deeply unsavoury."
"However, while those factors could certainly be considered in inferring the existence of an agreement, they are not determinative. If the circumstances concerning the possession of the baseball bat and the entry into the house were different, then the conduct in the aftermath would certainly be additional factors lending weight to the existence of an agreement and acts done in furtherance of and in contemplation of that agreement. But, this is not the evidence in the present case," she said.
"We find ourselves in agreement with the arguments advanced on the part of each appellant. There simply was an absence of evidence from which the jury could infer the existence of an agreement in the first instance," said Ms Justice Kennedy.
"We find that the trial judge erred in failing to direct the jury to return verdicts of not guilty of murder. However, there is overwhelming evidence of guilt insofar as an offence under the Criminal Law Act, 1997 is concerned," she said.
"We will allow the appeal and quash the conviction for murder, however we will substitute a conviction for assisting an offender pursuant to the Criminal Law Act 1997."
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