17 May 2022

Kildare murder accused dispenses with second legal team

Kildare murder accused dispenses with second legal team

File Pic: Central Criminal Court

A man from Kildare who is currently standing trial for an alleged murder has dispensed his second legal team, the jury has heard.

Stephen Penrose, who is accused of murdering a man who met a "gruesome death" in a Kildare woods, previously fired his first legal team last month.

When the jury, which is made up of 12 people, returned to the courtroom shortly before lunchtime today, they were informed that the accused, who is continuing to decline to attend his trial, had dispensed with the services of his legal team.

"You don't have to be concerned with that, you are concerned with the evidence and not the why's as to why that might have happened," said Mr Justice Owens. 

At the outset of the trial on October 13, the judge told the jury of eight men and four women that the accused Mr Penrose had dispensed with the services of his legal team, which he was entitled to do, and they should not draw any inference from that. 

Mr Penrose then represented himself and went on to cross-examine the victim's mother, Angela Finnegan, who told him she believed that another man was involved in the killing of her son Philip Finnegan.

Mr Justice Owens later warned Mr Penrose that he would be taken to the cells and banned from participating in his own trial if he continued to "abuse" and "ballyrag" witnesses.

The judge said he would not allow his courtroom to become "a circus" after Mr Penrose accused a garda inspector, whom he was cross-examining, of lying under oath.

On October 20, Mr Justice Owens informed the jurors that the accused, who was then representing himself in his murder trial having dismissed his legal team the previous week, had hired new lawyers. 

The defendant declined to continue attending his trial at this stage and the case proceeded in his absence. 

The jury spent last Friday listening to the content of Mr Penrose's six initial garda interviews, in which he told detectives that he heard his missing friend was “sitting in Jamaica eating a Big Mac". 

Mr Penrose also told gardai that he heard the victim had been "chopped up" in the Dublin mountains. 

In his fourth interview, the defendant insisted that he would not be going on trial for "any Finnegans".

"Put me in custody. I'll be swinging on a rope. I don't know anything," he added.

Mr Penrose, of Newtown Court, Malahide Road, Coolock, Dublin 17, has pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr Finnegan (24) at Rahin Woods, Rahin, Edenderry, Co Kildare on August 10, 2016.

The trial has heard that Mr Finnegan went missing before his decapitated body was found buried in a shallow grave in a Kildare woods.

Prosecution counsel Brendan Grehan SC began reading the seventh interview given by Mr Penrose to gardai on September 2 2016, when Mr Finnegan was the subject of a missing person investigation. 

Mr Penrose told gardai in his initial interviews that he parked up his car at the turn off for Kilcock on August 10 and Mr Finnegan had run over to another car to meet someone: "Then a fella walked over towards me, I can't remember if I opened my door. The minute he came over he swung a knife towards me. I think I went to block it."

"I just drove, as I was driving I saw two people scuffling with Phillip. I just kept driving. I pulled into a petrol station to get petrol and my arm just started pulsing blood, [sic]" he said. 

At the beginning of the fifth interview, Mr Penrose changed his account and told gardai that the last place he had seen his friend was at the accused's old house in Broadford in Co Kildare as Mr Finnegan had arranged to meet people to collect a shotgun. 

Garda Laura O' Brien agreed with Mr Grehan today that the accused drew the investigation team a map in his seventh interview to mark the area where he had pulled in his car and circled a crossroads. 

The witness agreed with Mr Grehan that this was a different location to the accused's house at Broadford, where he had previously indicated that he had met a group of men in a black car. 

When asked how Mr Penrose came to draw a map, Gda O'Brien said that detectives were asking the accused about locations and he had volunteered "to draw a map for clarity". 

In the seventh interview, the accused agreed with officers that he had parked his car on the back road, where himself and Mr Finnegan smoked a joint.

"I was confused earlier, everything is the same apart from the exact location," said Mr Penrose. 

The trial continues this afternoon before Mr Justice Owens and the 12 jurors. 

In his opening address, prosecuting barrister Mr Grehan said that Mr Finnegan's decapitated body was found buried in a shallow grave in a Kildare woods.

Counsel said Mr Finnegan had "certain troubles in the past" and had taken to wearing a protective vest.

The lawyer also told the jury in his opening address that attempts had been made to cut up and burn the body of Mr Finnegan, who had been missing for almost a month and who had met a "gruesome death".

Significantly, the barrister said, the jury will hear evidence that a bloodied glove was found in the woods which was a DNA match to the accused man Mr Penrose.

Evidence has been given that Mr Penrose's phone connected to a cell site close to the area where the victim’s body was found.

The 38-year-old's trial is in its fourth week at the Central Criminal Court. 

To continue reading this article for FREE,
please kindly register and/or log in.

Registration is absolutely 100% FREE and will help us personalise your experience on our sites. You can also sign up to our carefully curated newsletter(s) to keep up to date with your latest local news!

Register / Login

Buy the e-paper of the Donegal Democrat, Donegal People's Press, Donegal Post and Inish Times here for instant access to Donegal's premier news titles.

Keep up with the latest news from Donegal with our daily newsletter featuring the most important stories of the day delivered to your inbox every evening at 5pm.