Belfast Telegraph

Dundon jailed for Geoghegan murder

Crime boss John Dundon has been jailed for life for planning, directing and arranging the brutal murder of an innocent man in a case of mistaken identity.

Dundon listened to rap music on headphones, sometimes humming and nodding along, as he was found guilty ordering the hit that killed rugby player Shane Geoghegan almost five years ago.

Dressed in a black tracksuit, the 30-year-old made a crude gesture with his hand as three judges in the non-jury Special Criminal Court imposed a life sentence.

The gunman, Dublin man Barry Doyle, was convicted of the murder in February last year and jailed for life.

Dundon, of Hyde Road in Limerick, plans to appeal against his conviction for the murder of Mr Geoghegan near his home at Clonmore, Kilteragh, Dooradoyle, on November 9, 2008.

Judge Nicholas Kearns said the evidence of three state witnesses - particularly April Collins, a former girlfriend of Dundon's younger brother Ger - had been credible and truthful.

"That testimony places the accused John Dundon in a central role in the planning, direction and arrangements for the crime in question," he added.

Mr Geoghegan, 28, a Garryowen rugby player, had been watching an Ireland rugby international at a friend's house before he was shot dead close to the home he shared with girlfriend Jenna Barry, who heard shots being fired and a saw a man run to a stolen getaway car.

He was shot five times with a Glock semi-automatic pistol and was crouched down facing the gunman when some of the bullets were fired. The fatal shot was to the back of his head.

Dundon, a career criminal, had ordered the killing of the victim's neighbour John "Pitchfork" McNamara, but Doyle shot the wrong man based on Dundon's description, Collins said.

Her sister Lisa and her boyfriend, Dundon's cousin Christopher McCarthy, admitted stealing the Renault Espace used in the killing, weeks before the murder.

Dundon had walked into the packed courtroom with armed gardai, his music on a CD player audible and drowning out the judge as he read 23 pages of an 84-page judgment.

Judge Kearns told the court the three main witnesses would have to be regarded as accomplices in the murder.

But he said their evidence about the theft of a getaway car, Dundon's antipathy towards McNamara, and his association with Doyle was well corroborated by CCTV footage before and after the killing and garda statements.

Judge Kearns said Collins was plainly terrified of the accused but steadfast in her account of what was said and done.

"Having given careful consideration to all of the evidence and to each and every point raised on behalf of the accused in this case, the court is satisfied that the prosecution has established the guilt of John Dundon in this case beyond reasonable doubt," the judge said.

"The court finds the accused, John Dundon, guilty."

Mr Geoghegan's mother Mary and brother Anthony and Ms Barry were supported by several senior gardai from Limerick in court and listened intently to the verdict. None showed any emotion and they left court through a back door as they had done every day of the trial.

Tom O'Connell, senior counsel for the prosecution, said the family did not want to make a victim impact statement, but that Mr Geoghegan's mother had one message: "The facts of the case speak for itself."

Brendan Nix, senior counsel for Dundon, said his client expressed his sympathies for the victim's family, but denied having any part in the killing.

"He deeply regrets Mr Geoghegan lost his life in this way," said Mr Nix.

"He has done some things in this life but he maintains his innocence, that he had no hand, act or part in this. He hopes some day the full truth will come out."

Dundon made several attempts to delay the trial and went on hunger strike for several weeks. He had looked pale and thin as he sat in the courtroom in a wheelchair but filled out in recent weeks.

One day he arrived at court dressed only in a pair of shorts after refusing to wear prison-issue clothing.

Within weeks, Ireland's highest court, the Supreme Court, dismissed his appeal to have his trial delayed amid claims that his legal team needed more time to review thousands of pages of documents disclosed by the prosecution.

A new panel of judges sat at his request, but, as he was due to go on trial, he dramatically sacked his legal team, later fainting and cutting his head in a cell moments after realising he was expected to represent himself.

The next day, a new legal team arrived with senior counsel Brendan Nix telling the court: "There will be no messing around."

But even today the judge had to dismiss an application by Mr Nix to have the case thrown out as one of the three judges had previously dismissed an appeal by Dundon's brother Dessie after he was convicted of a murder.

Garda commissioner Martin Callinan welcomed the conviction of Dundon for the murder of Mr Geoghegan and c ongratulated the officers involved in the painstaking and lengthy investigation.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the Geoghegan family today and we are aware of how difficult a day this is for them all," he said in a statement.

"It clearly shows the determination of the Garda Siochana to pursue, fully, individuals or groups involved in this type of serious crime and this verdict today in the Special Criminal Court endorses the capacity of the state to deal with the most serious and difficult criminal cases."

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