08 Dec 2021

Jury has begun deliberating in the trial of man charged in relation to canal body murder

Paul Wells Junior charged with impeding apprehension of father by disposing of chainsaw

Jury has begun deliberating in the trial of man charged in relation to canal body murder

The case is being heard at the Central Criminal Court

A jury has begun deliberating in the trial of a man charged with impeding his father's apprehension by disposing of the chainsaw used to dismember the body of murder victim Kenneth O'Brien.

The Central Criminal Court judge concluded her charge this morning, having told the jury that if they found the prosecution had not disproved that the accused man had a reasonable excuse at the time he disposed of the chainsaw, they were legally obliged to bring back a verdict of not guilty. 

The deceased man, Kenneth O'Brien

Paul Wells Junior (33) is charged with impeding the apprehension or prosecution of his father Paul Wells Senior (51) by disposing of a chainsaw nearly four years ago. The prosecution allege the accused did so knowing that his father had taken a life.

Mr Wells Junior, with an address at Beatty Park, Celbridge, Co Kildare has pleaded not guilty to disposing of a chainsaw motor at a time unknown between January 19 and 20, 2016 in Co Kildare and not guilty to disposing of a chainsaw blade and chain on January 20, 2016 in the same location.

Addressing the jury this morning, Ms Justice Carmel Stewart said they must consider each charge separately. "Disposing of the chainsaw motor is one matter and disposing of the chain and blade is another matter," she outlined. 

The judge said the jury had to be satisfied as to the truthfulness and accuracy articulated by Mr Wells Jnr in his interviews with gardai and asked them to look at the accused's actions from his perspective. 

Ms Justice Stewart warned the jurors to solely assess the facts in the case and not to speculate about what evidence there might have been.

The prosecution must have proven that Mr Wells Jnr was guilty of the charges beyond a reasonable doubt, said the judge. 

If the prosecution had not disproved beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused had a reasonable excuse at the time he disposed of the chainsaw, they were legally obliged to return a verdict of not guilty, she explained. 

"Whether he had a reasonable excuse for acting as he did is a matter for you to determine, you do that by looking at the evidence before you," explained the judge, adding that the burden always remained on the prosecution to prove that no such reasonable excuse existed at the time.

In considering the evidence, Ms Justice Stewart said an intention to do a particular act can be formed in an instant. 

The judge said there were two verdicts the jury could return in relation to both charges, namely; guilty or not guilty. 

Mr Justice Stewart told the jurors that they must be unanimous in their decision in respect of the two counts before sending them away to begin deliberations at 12.43pm. 

Giving his closing statement, defence counsel Damien Colgan SC said Mr Wells Jnr committed "an act of stupidity" when he disposed of the chainsaw used to dismember Mr O'Brien's body but he did not impede the investigation "in any shape". 

Mr Colgan asked the jury to consider the defence of reasonable excuse and emphasised that the accused man did not have the requisite knowledge at the time to know what his father had done. 

He reminded the jury that his client was physically assaulted by his father from a young age and had grown up in a violent and volatile environment. His big fear was coming forward with the chainsaw as he harboured genuine fear of what could happen to him, said Mr Colgan, adding that his fear continues to this day. 

However, prosecution counsel Michael Bowman SC said in his closing speech that the accused knew what he did when he disposed of the chainsaw and fully understood the consequences of his actions.

Mr Bowman said this was an emotive case which evoked one’s natural sympathies as it told a "harrowing tale of childhood trauma" and "an abuse of family relationships". Notwithstanding the evidence, the barrister warned the jury that sympathy could not form part of their determination in the case.

Mr Bowman said the prosecution had proven that Mr Wells Jnr disposed of the chainsaw, its motor and blade because he knew Wells Snr had used it to murder Mr O’Brien. The defence of reasonable excuse did not exist in the case, he submitted. 

Wells Snr, of Barnamore Park, Finglas in Dublin 11 was last year found guilty of murdering Mr O'Brien at his home in Finglas on January 15 or 16, 2016. The killer admitted that, after shooting the 33-year-old father in his back garden, he dismembered his body with a chainsaw and dumped it in a suitcase in the Grand Canal.

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