A campaign of intimidation against key prosecution witnesses was a constant feature throughout the Adrian Donohoe murder trial.
Before he was even arrested for murder, Aaron Brady was identifying people who could have potentially incriminating evidence against him.
Serious concerns were raised throughout the trial about witness interference, but the jury never knew about this.
Seven people were expected to give evidence about admissions Brady had made, but ultimately only Molly Staunton and Daniel Cahill appeared before the court.
Today it can be revealed that:
While the murder trial has concluded, detectives are continuing a major investigation into witness intimidation across three countries. The inquiry is being led by a Detective Superintendent from the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation (NBCI).
One senior officer described it as the “dirtiest” trial he had ever come across. In some cases, people who overstayed their visas were threatened that their residency status would be exposed.
The most serious example of intimidation came to light in May when the statement of a key prosecution witness, which was video recorded, was leaked on social media. It came at a critical time as witnesses living in the US were due to start giving evidence.
The key witness, an Armagh man who lived with Brady in the Bronx, recalled to detectives how the murder suspect told him: “I shot him, so what.”
His statements also included information on three other robbery suspects. During the interview, carried out on October 25, 2017 in the 47th police precinct in New York, he also said Brady would regularly talk about the killing when drunk.
In early May, four excerpts of these statements along with a message labelling this man a ‘tout’ began circulating on Whatsapp. The videos showed the witness sitting in an interrogation room giving a statement to three detectives.
The accompanying text message made claims that he had received a green card for his cooperation and also had criminal charges dropped.
During an in-camera hearing on May 8, Detective Inspector Mark Phillips said the aim of the posts was to intimidate this witness and also any other potential witnesses.
The incident was described by Mr Justice Michael White, a judge for over 20 years, as the most outrageous contempt of court he had ever come across and a “sobering day for the administration of criminal justice in Ireland”.
Even before Brady was arrested for murder, the intimidation had started. Prosecutor Brendan Grehan SC told the trial in early June, in the absence of the jury, that witnesses and their families in Ireland were subject to intimidation. By this stage it was accepted that several would not cooperate with the trial.
On July 15 detectives, backed up by heavily armed gardai, carried out a series of raids on Traveller halting sites across Dublin.
Detectives searched the Mountjoy cell of a violent criminal with over 120 previous convictions who is currently serving a lengthy sentence for aggravated burglary.
No mobile phone was located but a piece of paper with several phone numbers scrawled on it was seized. Gardai are investigating if the intimidation of certain witnesses was “outsourced”.
Separately, American woman Molly Staunton testified via video-link in June that she heard Brady admit to shooting a cop while she was in his New York apartment with two other men.
Her evidence was interrupted by a male, later identified as her friend, who told her to “put a stop to it” and “no more testimony” before shutting down her laptop. Ironically the terrifying incident, which left the courtroom and the overflow court next door stunned in silence, had no links to the accused.
But that evening, after her evidence had finished, Ms Staunton was contacted by Brady’s former roommate. It was revealed during a sitting in the absence of the jury that an Armagh man made a death threat to her via social media. In one video sent via Snapchat, he shaped his fingers to imitate a gun while saying “bang, bang, you’re dead”. He later sent her another message which read, “You silly, silly girl” along with a number of crying laughing-face emojis.
Bizarrely, the Northern Irish man had given a statement to gardai saying Brady made admissions to him and was expected to give evidence but he refused to attend court and an arrest warrant was issued for him. He remains in Northern Ireland after being deported from the US.
There were other less threatening attempts to interfere with witnesses via social media. In early June, lead prosecution counsel Brendan Grehan said that a number of witnesses, if not all, had been contacted in various guises by Brady’s relatives and associates. One name in particular was being repeated.
The man had known Brady back in Ireland before moving to New York, where he remains, and is heavily involved in GAA.
Prosecution witness Daniel Cahill moved from the Bronx because of pressure from Brady’s friends. He continued to be the subject of serious threats at the time of giving evidence.
While the criminal trial has concluded, the investigation into the intimidation of witnesses is continuing.