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04 Jul 2022

Murder accused told gardai his friend was stabbed in back by men he claimed came from Portlaosie Portarlington direction

The Criminal Courts of Justice, Dublin

The Criminal Courts of Justice

A man on trial for murder in Edenderry and who has told Gardaí men for the Portlaoise / Portarlington direction were responsible has claimed that his dead friend was stabbed in the back during an attack by a group of men whom they met to test a firearm.

Mr 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 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 on September 2, 2016. 

Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster has testified that the remains of Mr Finnegan were found in the grave on September 2 and 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. 

The identity of Mr Finnegan was confirmed by fingerprint the next day - September 3 - after skin was recovered from the soil of the gravesite. At this point, the missing person investigation became a murder investigation.

A forensic scientist also told the jury last week that a DNA profile generated from a bloodied glove discovered near the decapitated and "skeletonised" remains of Mr Finnegan matched the DNA of Mr Penrose.

Giving evidence today, Inspector Aidan Hannon told Brendan Grehan SC, prosecuting, that the fourth interview following Mr Penrose's rearrest took place on November 17, 2016 at Leixlip Garda Station.

Insp Hannon agreed with Mr Grehan that the accused had produced a written account in his first interview on November 16, when he was rearrested on suspicion of murdering Mr Finnegan on August 10 that year. Mr Penrose had read the prepared handwritten statement to gardai, which said: "I had nothing to do with Philip's killing. All this had nothing whatsoever to do with me and that's why I tried to distance myself from it". 

The written statement claimed that the dead man was due to collect something from friends in Portlaoise on the day he went missing Penrose also claims that himself and the deceased were set upon by four men from the 'Portlaoise / Portarlington' direction but that the managed to flee.

The court has heard that Mr Penrose was first arrested on August 31, 2016 for withholding information in relation to a serious assault on Mr Finnegan and interviewed on ten occasions at Kilmainham Garda Station. Mr Penrose was released from his detention after the tenth interview took place on September 2, when Mr Finnegan was still considered a missing person. 

Insp Hannon today agreed with Mr Grehan that the accused's latest account on November 17 gave a "new suggested location" as to where he had last seen Mr Finnegan on August 10. 

Recalling the different versions of where the accused maintained he had last seen his friend, Mr Grehan said Mr Penrose initially said it was on the outskirts of Kilcock Co Kildare, then on the road leading up to the house in Clonuff in Co Kildare, subsequently "it moved down towards a crossroads which intersected with a road towards Clonuff and Broadford" and then the accused suggested in his written statement that it was "somewhere near Edenderry" in Co Offaly. 

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. The accused said he then drove off at speed. 

In his fourth interview, gardai put it to Mr Penrose that the only thing he varied in his written statement was where he said he had last seen Mr Finnegan. 

"Why did you hide the truth of where it happened, why didn't you tell us where it happened on the first day," asked gardai. 

"Cause I feared for my life...I had no involvement in this, it has nothing to do with me, it's fuck all to do with me," replied Mr Penrose. 

Gardai pressed the accused as to why he had not given the location of Edenderry in his first interview. "I had to protect my life and my family's life, that's why," he said.

The accused continued: "I told you things I didn't have to tell you. I told you about the car. I don't have to tell you about nothing [sic]."

"Me and Philip have a lot of mutual friends. I'm not giving an account of what happened. Some of his friends know some of my friends. There is a lot of shit going on. I've given an account of what happened that day. We only went down the country to meet friends, a lot of shit happened. I got stabbed in the car and took off in the car and that's all I know," said Mr Penrose. 

When asked by gardai to tell them what happened, Mr Penrose said: "I told you, I put it down in writing". "I told you there what happened. I've nothing else to say. I can't clear the water for you anymore," he added. 

Gardai told the accused that what he meant to say is that he "won't clear the waters".

"I can't," replied the accused.

Officers told the defendant that he could "clear the waters" for them. 

"I got attacked on a back road, that's all I can tell you. I can't tell you anymore, I've put it down in writing," said Mr Penrose. 

Gardai asked the accused if it was true that he got stabbed through the driver's window of his car. Mr Penrose said the knife had cut an artery and he had nothing else to say. 

In the fifth interview, detectives asked Mr Penrose if he knew where Mr Finnegan's body was buried. "I certainly do not," he replied. 

The accused told gardai that he did not know who had stabbed him in the car despite originally telling Insp Hannon in Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown on August 10 that he did know. "My head was mush, I don't know who stabbed me," he continued.

"The first I heard of Philip missing is when police came over to me three days later in hospital, when I first realised something serious after happening," he said.

When asked why he had got rid of his clothes in hospital on August 10, Mr Penrose said: "I didn't, my clothes were cut off me in hospital. I'd to get my father to drop me in a new set of clothes. I haven't got or tried to destroy anything, I was in a nightgown you know what I mean".

In the sixth interview, gardai told the accused that his DNA was located beside Mr Finnegan's body in Rahin Woods. "What does that say about the account you told your father, the three gardai, Inspector Aiden Hannon and Detective Gerard Moore," asked officers. "I told them all the same thing," replied the accused. 

In the eight interview, gardai told Mr Penrose that his DNA was on the gardening glove found in a hole beside the shallow grave, where the deceased's remains were burned and buried. 

"This is a left-handed glove, which wrist did you injure?" asked the gardai.

"The left hand," he replied.

Gardai told the accused: "Do you wish to tell us the truth, here is your left-handed glove full of your blood. You murdered him, you buried him and burned him. Your DNA is in that glove. There is no getting away from it. This is going no-where. This damns you. Tell us what happened up in those woods".

In reply, Mr Penrose said: "I've told you from day one I've no involvement in Philip's death. I told you I didn't kill Philip. I wasn't in the woods". 

Mr Penrose was asked by officers to "explain the glove then". "I wasn't in no woods," said the accused.

"I didn't kill Philip. I wasn't near where he was buried. I've nothing whatsoever to do with this," he continued. 

The accused was asked by gardai if he had anything else to tell them before they turned off the tape recorder. 

Mr Penrose began: "Yes, I'll say what happened. I was nowhere near the woods. I was never in any woods. I don't know the fellas we met there. We met them at a house down there, we met them to test firearms.

"Look we went down to test a firearm, we both got attacked. I got stabbed in the arm. I didn't know Philip got buried there. I seen Philip getting stabbed in the back. I seen him get attacked. I seen people swinging out of him and he bending over and getting stabbed in the back. He had a bullet proof vest on.

"I seen him running towards a caravan. I was bleeding, I was after been stabbed. I took glove off, I wrapped mat around my arm to stop bleeding. I jumped in the car and drove off. I got dragged into all this shit over nothing. I just wanted to distance myself; we went down to test firearms.

"It wasn't at a forest. It was at a house, we were meant to meet two fellas. Two other fellas came running out of nowhere and stabbed us. I seen him bent over and seen your man stabbing him in the back. Philip jumped up and got them off him and I seen him running up steps towards the caravan," said Mr Penrose. 

"I think when I fucked off the [car] mat I threw my runners out, I think there was blood on runners as well," he concluded.  
 
The trial continues tomorrow before Mr Justice Alexander Owens and a jury of eight men and four women.

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" last week and is continuing to decline to attend his trial, which is in its fifth week at the Central Criminal Court.

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