05 Jul 2022

Murder accused blamed men from 'Portlaoise Portarlington direction' for killing he is on trial for

Bloodied glove discovered near the decapitated and skeletonised body


The Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin.

A man on trial for a murder in Edenderry blamed four unidentified men from Laois for killing of a man he was with that day and who Gardaí were told had arranged to collect something from friends in Portlaoise on the day he went missing.

The claims emerged in evidence given to the the Central Criminal Court in the form of a statement by the accused Stephen Penrose given during an interview to a garda from the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation when he was arrested in 2016 on suspicion of killing Philip Finnegan.

The accused's statement claimed that 'two fellas coming from the Portarlington /Portlaoise direction' were due to meet them on the day of Mr Finnegan's death. Mr Penrose also claimed that instead, four men arrived and attacked them both.

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

The trial has heard that Mr Finnegan was missing for just over three weeks before a dog walker and his two pets found his remains buried in a shallow grave in the Kildare woods.

The court heard on Friday, November 5 that Garda Insp Aidan Hannon arrested Mr Penrose on November 16, 2016 on suspicion of murdering Mr Finnegan on August 10 that year and brought him to Leixlip Garda Station. The witness said the accused was interviewed that day and his detention was extended until November 17. 

Detective Sergeant Brian Hanley, from the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, interviewed the accused on November 16. Det Sgt Hanley testified that Mr Penrose gave gardaí a statement during the first interview, which the accused said he had written when he spoke to his solicitor three weeks previous.

"The morning Philip went missing he had arranged to meet friends of his around Portlaoise to collect something from them. Philip and I were heading to Edenderry to meet a few friends of mine so we thought it would be safer to meet them near a friend of mine's house in Edenderry. After we left the petrol station, we turned up the back roads towards my friend's house.

"There was only meant to be two fellas coming from the Portarlington /Portlaoise direction but when we pulled up there were four in the car. Philip got out to talk to the fellas and one walked over towards me and stabbed me through the arm. I reversed the car as quickly as I could and drove off at speed down the back road, lucky to escape with my life.

"After I got a good distance away I stopped to sort out my arm. I got out to get something from the boot to wrap around my arm to stop the bleeding. I'd held my arm between my legs as I was driving and the blood was all over the floor mat so I threw it out on the side of the road and drove to the petrol station in Clonard.

"I had nothing to do with Philip's killing. We were both attacked. I got stabbed. I nearly lost my arm and I was lucky to escape with my life. I didn't fully cooperate with the investigation before because I fear for my life and I fear for the safety of my family over all this. All this had nothing whatsoever to do with me and that's why I tried to distance myself from it.

"I was only after undergoing an operation the last time I was questioned, I was only out of hospital. I was taking loads of Valium for the pain and my head was all over the place. I had not consulted with a solicitor but I have now and he advised me to tell the truth to vindicate my name from this investigation," said his statment. 

The court also heard on Friday, November 5 that a bloodied glove discovered near the decapitated and "skeletonised" remains of a missing Dublin man matched the DNA of murder accused Stephen Penrose, a forensic scientist has told his trial.

The trial has heard that Mr Finnegan was missing for just over three weeks before a dog walker and his two pets found his remains buried in a shallow grave in the Kildare woods.

Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster has told the jury that the remains of Mr Finnegan were found curled up in a foetal position in the shallow grave, while attempts had been made to burn his body. 

In the expert witness's view, Mr Finnegan's death was caused by multiple stab wounds to the body, including two fatal ones to his liver and aorta. 

Evidence has also been given that a garden fork, a shovel and the blade of a knife were found close to the remains. The garden glove with substantial fire damage, a black funnel or fuel can nozzle and the remains of a mobile phone were found nearby buried in a fire pit. 

Giving evidence today, Dr Alan McGee of Forensic Science Ireland told John Berry BL, prosecuting, that he received a glove which was discovered by gardai at Rahin Woods on September 8. He also received a DNA profile belonging to Mr Penrose. 

Earlier, Garda Damien Anderson said he took a buccal swab from Mr Penrose on November 16 2016 for the purpose of DNA testing in order to prove or disprove the accused's involvement in the murder of Mr Finnegan. 

Dr McGee said the outside of the left-handed glove was burned, some of the tips of the middle fingers were missing and the majority of its inside was charred. "When I looked down the fingers I could see blood in there and there was also blood in the palm area of the glove," he told Mr Berry. 

The witness testified that there were five specific locations of blood on the inside of the glove and he examined blood from three of these locations from which he had developed a full DNA profile. 

Dr McGee said "there was a match" when he compared the full DNA profile from the glove with a DNA swab taken from Mr Penrose. He estimated the chance of finding the profile to have come from someone other than Mr Penrose as less than one in a billion. 

Mr Berry put it to the witness that the accused had cut his left wrist and asked him if the presence of blood in the glove was consistent or inconsistent with that cut. "Probably the person was wearing the glove when bleeding or they had wet blood on their hand and then wore the glove," he replied. 

Evidence has been given by paramedic Terry Devine that Mr Penrose had a stab wound to the inside of left arm, when he examined him at Kilcock on August 10 at 6.45pm. The accused had told gardai that he and Mr Finnegan met a number of men in a black car earlier that day. Mr Penrose maintained that a man stabbed him in the arm through the driver's window before Mr Finnegan was "bundled" into the black car.

Dr McGee had also examined a knife, a garden fork and a spade that were found close to Mr Finnegan's body in Rahin Woods. No DNA profiles from these items were obtained and no blood was found on them, he said. 

The knife, which was blackened and rusted, measured 2.5cm wide and was 235mm long. 

Mr Berry put it to the witness that some of the wounds to Mr Finnegan were 2.5cm in length and asked if this was consistent with the knife having been used. Dr McGee said it was.

The witness said a possible explanation for the "blackening" on the knife could be because it came from an "area of burning."

The garden fork and spade, whose handle was missing, were also partially burned and mud-stained in places, he said. 

The court heard that no blood or DNA profiles were found on either the fuel can nozzle/black funnel or the remains of a mobile phone that were found nearby buried in a fire pit.

Forensic scientist Dr Stephen Clifford said the DNA profiles of blood obtained from a blue Alfa Romeo car associated with Mr Penrose all matched the accused. 

The witness said he sampled the inside collar belonging to a grey 'Fila' hoodie, which was seized from the back seat of the Alfa Romeo car, and the major part of the profile matched Mr Finnegan. 

Earlier, Inspector Hannon told Brendan Grehan SC, prosecuting, that the missing person investigation became a murder investigation after September 4, when Mr Finnegan's fingerprints were positively identified from the human remains found in Rahin Woods. 

The court was told by Dr Bolster on Wednesday that the identity of Mr Finnegan, who had been missing for almost a month at this point, was confirmed by fingerprint on September 3 after skin that had "slipped away" from a finger was recovered from the soil of the gravesite.

Mr Penrose was first arrested on August 31 for withholding information in relation to a serious assault on Mr Finnegan. He was interviewed on ten occasions at Kilmainham Garda Station.

Mr Penrose was released from his detention after the tenth and final interview took place on September 2, when Mr Finnegan was still considered a missing person. 

The trial has heard that Mr Penrose initially told gardai that he and Mr Finnegan had been attacked at an off-ramp for Kilcock, before later telling them the attack happened at an old house of his at Broadford, Co Kildare. 

In the next three interviews, Mr Penrose told gardai that he had cooperated with the investigation and that he did not hide or conceal any evidence. 

The trial continues on Monday before Mr Justice Alexander Owens and a jury of eight men and four women, when it is expected that the remaining interviews will be heard. 

Evidence has also been given that Mr Penrose's phone connected to a cell site close to the area where the victim’s body was found. 

Mr Penrose dispensed with what was his second legal team "once again" this week and is continuing to decline to attend his trial, which is in its fourth week at the Central Criminal Court.

To continue reading this article for FREE,
please kindly register and/or log in.

Registration is absolutely 100% FREE and will help us personalise your experience on our sites. You can also sign up to our carefully curated newsletter(s) to keep up to date with your latest local news!

Register / Login

Buy the e-paper of the Donegal Democrat, Donegal People's Press, Donegal Post and Inish Times here for instant access to Donegal's premier news titles.

Keep up with the latest news from Donegal with our daily newsletter featuring the most important stories of the day delivered to your inbox every evening at 5pm.