Aaron Brady has been found guilty of the capital murder of Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe during an armed robbery seven years ago.
It was the prosecution’s case that Brady (29) fired the fatal shot during the raid at Lordship credit union in Dundalk, Co Louth, on January 25, 2013.
He denied this and claimed he was moving laundered diesel waste cubes at a yard in south Armagh at the time.
However, following a 28-week trial, the jury of seven women and five men returned guilty verdicts on counts of capital murder and robbery.
The longest murder trial in the history of the State began on January 27 and sat for 118 days during which 139 witnesses were called to give evidence, including the accused.
The defence had made several applications to discharge the jury citing the delay over the Covid-19 pandemic and the interruption of a key witnesses’ testimony, but these were refused by trial judge Mr Justice Michael White.
Aaron Brady, of New Road in Crossmaglen, Co Armagh, now faces the mandatory 40-year prison sentence after being convicted of capital murder.
Det Gda Adrian Donohoe (41), a married father-of-two, was on an armed cash escort when the convoy was ambushed by a five-man gang as they prepared to leave the credit union.
The detective had stepped out of his unmarked Toyota Avensis after the car park exit was blocked by a Volkswagen Passat when, without warning, he was shot in the head at point-blank range. He was the 87th member of An Garda Síochána to die in the course of duty.
The raid was carried out in 58 seconds and netted the gang €7,000 while €27,000 was left behind. The prosecution said the robbery must have been carried out by a local gang, who had Border accents and knowledge of the rural getaway roads used, and that they were motivated by money.
The prosecution had relied upon what they said was “overwhelmingly” circumstantial evidence, tied together with the admissions of the accused and wrapped in a litany of lies, to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Aaron Brady shot dead Det Gda Donohoe.
The Volkswagen Passat used in the robbery had been stolen from Clogherhead during a ‘creeper’ burglary three nights before the murder. There was expert evidence given that a distinctive BMW 5 Series with a metallic rapped roof captured on CCTV close to the burglary that night was very similar to a BMW belonging to Brady’s best friend, Suspect A.
The prosecution said there was a silent period on both of the men’s phones at this time indicating that they were in each other’s company when the getaway car was stolen.
Mobile phones belonging to the accused and three other suspects were also inactive during the same period an hour before and after the murder, with prosecutor Lorcan Staines SC describing this as an “extraordinary unusual and unlucky coincidence”.
Aaron Brady was described as a “skilled and practised liar” who told lots of lies for his own personal advantage.
He admitted he lied when giving an account of his movements to Insp John Moroney the day after the murder, and again 10 days later when he made a voluntary statement to Det Gda Jim McGovern and Det Insp Mark Phillips. Brady had claimed he lied because he was trying to disguise the fact he was moving laundered diesel waste, but the prosecution said it was to hide his involvement in the murder.
They said these lies continued when Aaron Brady got into the witness box of the Central Criminal Court.
Over the course of five days he denied any involvement in the murder and described key prosecution witness Daniel Cahill as a “psychopath” and a “pathological liar”.
Under cross-examination from lead prosecution counsel Brendan Grehan SC, Brady claimed he had been a victim of a campaign by gardai and the media.
The jury heard that within weeks of the robbery Brady and three other suspects all left Ireland and travelled to “far flung corners of the world”.
The accused settled in the Woodlawn area of the Bronx which he thought would be a safe haven, and where he “wore the shooting of detective garda Adrian Donohoe like a badge of honour”.
There was damning evidence given by two witnesses living in the US who told the court that they heard Aaron Brady make admissions.
Molly Staunton, an American citizen, said she was in Aaron Brady’s apartment when he was “ranting” about having murdered a cop in Ireland. While appearing via video link, her evidence was interrupted by her friend who told her to “put a stop to it” and “no more testimony” before the live feed cut off. Mr Justice Michael White gave the jury a warning about her evidence.
Daniel Cahill, a barman who worked in the Bronx, told the trial of three interactions he had with Brady during which the accused said he had shot a guard in Ireland.
One incident occurred after the accused was punched in a bar fight, another while he was drinking on his own in a pub saying he had nightmares about the shooting, and a third incident was in an apartment where Brady bragged about the murder.
Mr Cahill told the court that these admissions happened between 2015 and 2016 in the Bronx and that on each occasion Aaron Brady said he had shot a garda. During the trial the court heard Daniel Cahill was out of residency status in the US, and that he was waiting to apply for a green card having married an American citizen.
Homeland Security agent Mary Ann Wade, who detained the witness last year before he gave his statement to gardaí, gave evidence that Mr Cahill was not made any offers for his cooperation. A letter of scope provided to her by her employer limited the evidence she could give in a foreign court.
The prosecution contended that, if all of the evidence against Aaron Brady was “a lie, bad luck and strange circumstances”, then it would be “some string of unfortunate events” for Aaron Brady.
It was the defence case that the accused was at a diesel-laundering yard 21km away from Lordship credit union at the time of the robbery.
Defence counsel Michael O’Higgins SC told the jury that the prosecution had come to court with a “highly sculpted” and “editorialised” case which he described as “smoke and mirrors”.
He criticised the Garda investigation and said it was “beyond comprehension” that aspects of his client’s account were never followed up on.
Mr O’Higgins described the evidence of a silent period between the accused and other suspects around the time of the robbery as “flawed” and said that messaging services do not show up in data records. He also questioned why proceedings haven’t commenced against two other named men, Suspect A and B, who the prosecution say were also involved but cannot be named for legal reasons.
The jury were told that his client’s lies did not amount to guilt and argued that people lie for a wide range of reasons.
Counsel said that key prosecution witness Daniel Cahill was not as he appeared and was a person with a lot to gain.
He said Molly Staunton’s evidence swung from left to right like a pendulum and that she was not someone whose testimony could be relied upon.
Mr O’Higgins also described Agent Maryann Wade as an “extremely difficult” and “evasive” witness.
The senior counsel said that the prosecution had not proved their case against his client beyond reasonable doubt.
However, the jury came to the conclusion that Aaron Brady was the masked raider who shot Adrian Donohoe dead during the credit union robbery.
The case began with an extended 15-person jury pool due to the length of time it was expected to take and three jurors were excused during the trial.
In February one juror had recognised a relative of Brady in court and asked to be excused, while in May another expressed concerns about coming to court during the Covid-19 pandemic and was discharged. In early August a third juror said that he had a commitment and, as there would still be 12 jurors remaining, asked to be excused.
After delivering their verdicts, the jury panel were thanked by Mr Justice Michael White for their patience over the past seven months before exempting them from jury service for life.