Grim discovery of body recalled in evidence on opening days of trial

A jury heard yesterday how a man, charged with withholding information during a garda investigation into the killing of a popular Oughterard publican and teacher John Kenny, had “not been himself” when met by an acquaintance later that night, hours before the grim discovery was made by distraught family members.

Mr Robbie Foster was giving evidence at Galway Circuit Criminal Court on day two of the trial of Florin Fitzpatrick, a 38-year-old Romanian man formerly of The Green, College Road, who denies the charge of withholding information between September 25 and October 4, 2011, contrary to Section 9 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1998. Mr Foster told the jury that while working security at Forster Court Hotel in Galway City at 2am on September 25 he found the accused man to be not “his usual chatty self”.

“He would be normally friendly and chatty but he wasn’t his normal self. It was like there was something bothering him,” said Mr Foster who added that Fitzpatrick had seemed upset and that he spoke to a number of women in the bar before leaving an hour later.

Witnesses described how they had seen Fitzpatrick serving behind the bar of Kenny’s pub in Oughterard from 10pm on September 24 until closing time. Edward McDonagh, one of the last patrons to leave the pub, gave evidence that when he had been at Kenny’s pub earlier that evening, at around 10.10pm, there had been a “large man” providing security at the front door, and that John Kenny had greeted him and his then girlfriend warmly. Mr McDonagh said that when he had left to go to another pub Mr Kenny had been slightly tipsy but in good form, however when he returned an hour later Mr Kenny was in a very intoxicated state, wobbly on his feet, and had to be helped into a chair by Fitzpatrick. Mr McDonagh noted that a different, smaller, and younger man had been present and had locked the front door of the pub behind him when he left.

Earlier yesterday, the brother of the deceased, Garda Jim Kenny, spoke of how he had received a call at 5.39pm on Sunday, September 25, and had gone straight to Kenny’s pub to find his brother lying face down on the floor of the ladies toilet. Describing the scene, he said: “His hands were tied behind his back with green flex wire, tied deep into his hands, you could see the track of it. I could see he was dead and something terrible had happened, he was murdered or something. I rang Salthill Garda Station and told them my brother was dead and to send available guards out. He was dead, I knew the best thing I could do for him at that stage was to preserve the scene.”

Garda Kenny added that he could see slash marks on his brother’s body, between the legs and knee area, and that the jacket, which had been initially tied tightly around the head, had been taken away but was still underneath the head. Under cross examination Garda Kenny said that he had been talking to his brother a few days beforehand and that he seemed a “bit under pressure”.

Clifden District officer, Supt Tony O’Donnell, had been the superintendent on duty for the Galway division at the time of the offence. He described how he had been met by a “deeply shocking sight” when he arrived at the scene. He noted how there had been a small candle lit on a counter in the dark bar area, that there had been broken glass on the floor to the left, and small coins thrown about the floor. Supt O’Donnell then explained how the till had been slightly open and as he had been wearing gloves he opened it further to find that there were no notes inside or large coinage only “copper” coins. Taking the view that the death of Mr Kenny was not of natural causes Supt O’Donnell immediately ordered an investigation team to be assembled.

The scene was preserved by gardai and the body of Mr Kenny remained in situ until the following day when a forensic examination was carried out. At 1.20pm on September 26 the body was removed from the scene and taken to University Hospital Galway where a post mortem was carried out by state pathologist Marie Cassidy.

When the trial began on Tuesday afternoon Kathleen Kenny told the court how although she had been separated from her husband John they had remained “best friends” and that she became concerned when no contact had been made on September 25 as it had been Mr Kenny’s habit to do so. An employee of a local pizzeria phoned at around 5pm to say that he had found Mr Kenny’s phone. Kathleen and her daughter Gillian arrived at the pub where they discovered the body.

“As I jumped out of the car I could see the lights were on outside and I knew something was wrong. I thought he might have fallen. I go to the front door, kick in the second [inside] door, screamed for John. I had a bad feeling,” said Mrs Kenny who added that she sought the aid of a local man and when they both went towards the ladies toilets they found that a chair had been lodged up against the door, keeping it secure.

“The chair was moved and the door opened and then I saw John. His head was covered with a jacket, his hands tied behind his back, so securely with a wire,” said Mrs Kenny.

Dr Peter Harte told how he arrived at the scene at 5.50pm and that he examined the body for any signs of life but there were none.

The trial continues and is expected to run for another two weeks.

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