Aaron Brady has been found guilty of the capital murder of Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe by a majority jury verdict at the Central Criminal Court today.
The 29-year-old with an address at New Road, Crossmaglen, Co Armagh will be sentenced to the mandatory term for capital murder of 40 years imprisonment.
Brady had denied capital murder and said he had no involvement in the robbery at Lordship Credit Union on January 25, 2013 that resulted in the detective's death.
The jury of five men and seven women found him guilty on the robbery charge on Monday and returned today having been told by trial judge Mr Justice Michael White that they could bring a majority verdict if ten of them agreed. The jury found him guilty on the capital murder charge by a majority 11 to one verdict after 20 hours and two minutes spent considering their verdicts.
The prosecution used circumstantial evidence to prove that Brady was involved in stealing a Volkswagen Passat used by the raiders as a getaway car and to block the entrance to the credit union car park just as employees were preparing to leave with the day's takings followed by a garda escort. They also pointed to lies Brady told to gardai when he was questioned one day after the shooting and ten days later when he visited Dundalk Garda Station to give a voluntary statement.
In his closing speech to the jury, Lorcan Staines SC described Brady as a "practised liar". He said the prosecution case was a circumstantial one and that each piece of evidence on its own could be considered no more than coincidence. He added: "It's your personal tolerance when coincidence is put on top of coincidence until there comes a point that it is an affront to common sense that all these little things are coincidence."
To prove that Brady was the shooter the prosecution introduced the evidence of Molly Staunton and Daniel Cahill who said they heard Brady confess that he "shot a cop" or "murdered a garda" on multiple occasions after Brady moved to New York following the shooting.
Brady took the stand in his defence and told the jury that he was loading cubes of laundered diesel waste onto the back of a trailer when the robbery happened. He insisted he had nothing to do with the robbery and said that he lied to gardai to cover up his involvement in diesel laundering.
The jury did not accept his testimony and found that he was one of four raiders who jumped over the wall of the credit union just as the Passat blocked the car park entrance.
Brady pointed an automatic or pump action shotgun at Detective Garda Donohoe and fired a single shot to the head from about six feet away, killing him instantly. The jury's verdict shows that they were satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that when Brady pulled the trigger he not only intended to kill or cause serious injury but he also knew he was shooting a member of An Garda Siochana acting in accordance with his duty.
The jury began hearing evidence last January in a trial that was expected to last four months but suffered major delays due to the Covid outbreak and lengthy legal argument in the jury's absence.
The court has sat for 122 days and the jury heard from 139 witnesses over the course of 28 weeks, making this the longest murder trial in the history of the State. During the trial it emerged that gardai had trawled through thousands of hours of CCTV footage and generated tens of thousands of documents during the investigation. Gardai claimed privilege over 50 statements taken during the investigation on the grounds that to reveal them to Brady could result in a threat to the lives of individuals.
Mr Justice Michael White examined the documents and upheld the claims of privilege on the grounds set out by gardai.
Inspector Mark Phillips and Detective Garda Jim McGovern of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation flew to New York on several occasions and worked with the US Department of Homeland Security to find witnesses who would testify to having heard Brady admit to the murder after he fled to America from Belfast Airport on a British passport about two months after the murder.
Only Molly Staunton and Daniel Cahill came forward to give evidence of having heard Brady's confession. Four others who gave statements to gardai alleging they heard Brady make similar confessions did not give evidence in court. The evidence of another witness who said he heard someone who said his name was Aaron Brady confess to killing a garda in a bar after a wedding was ruled inadmissible by the trial judge Mr Justice Michael White.
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