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Pub death trial ongoing

Story by Karen Downey

Friday, 16th March, 2012 10:30am

The trial of a man accused of the manslaughter of Offaly publican Matt Farrell two years ago is continuing before the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court today.

During a robbery of a pub in Daingean 64-year-old Mr Farrell had his hands bound behind his back and suffered blunt force trauma to the head and face. The grandfather and father-of-four suffered a heart attack and was found dead by his son the next day.

Eddie Wing (31) with a previous address at Roscrea, Co. Tipperary, has pleaded not guilty to the unlawful killing of Mr Farrell at the Gaelic Bar, Daingean, Co. Offaly, on April 1, 2009. He has also denied burglary at the Gaelic Bar on the same date.

Much of yesterday (Thursday) was taken up with legal argument, but earlier in the week the trial heard how a witness walked into a garda station and told gardai he knew who the killer was.

On Monday, the opening day of the trial, the jury was told that the main prosecution witness is a convicted burglar, described as a "jailhouse informant", who had shared a prison cell with the accused in late 2009.

Mary Rose Gearty SC, prosecuting, told the jury that at the end of the trial, they would be warned that they must be very careful about convicting on the basis of a jailhouse informant's testimony. She said they could convict on this evidence but they would be warned in some detail why it may be dangerous to convict. She said the main prosecution witness had a heroin addiction at the time of the burglaries and at the time of going into prison.

On Tuesday the witness, who is not being named, told Dublin Circuit Criminal Court that in November 2009, Mr Wing confessed to the killing while the two men shared a prison cell.

This witness told Ms Gearty SC, that Mr Wing broke down in tears during the alleged confession.

He said Mr Wing told him that he and another man were involved in robbing a pub in Daingean when an old man who was sleeping downstairs woke up.

Mr Wing allegedly told the witness that after one of the burglar's names was mentioned in front of Mr Farrell, Mr Wing hit him so that the victim would forget the name the next day. The witness alleged that Mr Wing said that "he hit him a few slaps" and that he didn't mean to kill him. He said on another occasion Mr Wing talked about tying the victim up.

The witness told the court that Mr Wing said he "didn't wake up that day with the intention of killing anybody".

"He was in a bad way, like a broken man. He was crying at one stage. He was sorry for doing it," the witness said.

The witness said he didn't tell anyone about the alleged confession until after his release from prison. He said he then went to the garda station in Birr and told Inspector Dermot Drea what about the allegations.

On Wednesday Garda Virginia Doona told Mary Rose Gearty SC, prosecuting, that in early January 2010 the "prison informant" came into Birr garda station and said "I know who did that".

She said he then pointed at a poster offering a €10,000 reward for information about the crime. Gda Doona said she twice asked the man, who was known to her, if he was going to tell her but that he said no and left the station.

She told Conor Devally SC, defending, that she didn't record the incident in the official message book. She denied a suggestion that she laughed at the man.

The jury has already been told that this witness met and revealed his allegations in full to Garda Inspector Dermot Drea and Garda Superintendent Pat Murray on January 19, 2010.

Gda Supt Murray told Ms Gearty that an examination of the crime scene that took place over three days failed to produce any DNA or other forensic evidence.

He said the binding used to tie the victim's hands were examined for DNA and footprints taken from the scene were compared to the shoes of potential suspects.

He agreed with Mr Devally that until gardai spoke to the "jailhouse informant" on January 19 there was no evidence connecting any individual to the crime scene.

The trial continues before Judge Patrick McCartan and a jury of seven men and five women.