A man who tried to hire a hitman to kill a couple who were exchanging intimate online messages with his now ex-wife has been jailed for four-and-a-half years by the Central Criminal Court.
Bryan Kennedy (35) will not begin his sentence immediately because Ms Justice Caroline Biggs said she wants to allow time for the child and family agency Tusla to put in place supports for his children.
She adjourned the matter until April 17th next when Kennedy is expected to be taken into custody once the court has been satisfied that his children will not be disadvantaged by his prison sentence.
The court has previously heard that Kennedy is the primary carer for his children and that his former wife, who is disabled and uses a wheelchair, is unable to provide the care they need.
Kennedy also has a conviction at District Court level for possession of child pornography but Ms Justice Biggs noted that the images were “few in number and of some antiquity”.
Ms Justice Biggs said that Kennedy “hatched the plan” to kill his wife’s online friends with a man he knew to be “unhinged” and who had previous convictions.
She said the man he attempted to get to carry out the killings, named as AL because he cannot be identified for legal reasons, warned Kennedy that he was embarking on a “dangerous road” but Kennedy proceeded nonetheless. “His decision to engage in this grotesque plan is not under duress but was voluntary,” Ms Justice Biggs said.
Kennedy then paid €8,000 to the would-be assassin by taking loans from family and friends.
He engaged, the judge said, in a plan to kill two people and engaged in a discussion as to whether it would be cheaper to kill one but then elected to kill both.
He provided personal details of the two women and accessed his wife’s Facebook page in pursuit of his plan. Ms Justice Biggs added: “This is not a plan that is spontaneous, it is initiated by him and he takes time to think about it and having done so, he decides to pursue it. It is not a spontaneous plan borne out of rage or bravado, it is planned and meant to be executed.”
She said his later decision to pull out was not because he didn’t want to have the two women killed, but because he came to have doubts about AL’s bona fides and started considering whether he could carry out the plan himself.
The judge said the backfiring of the plan is not a mitigating factor, but she did note that Kennedy had been threatened and intimidated by AL.
The evidence of one witness was that Kennedy came to be terrified of AL. Ms Justice Biggs said mitigation from that is limited because Kennedy “must have known that if he engages with someone who agrees to be a conduit to kill two people or to himself kill two people, that person is dangerous and unhinged.”
Among the mitigating factors, the judge said, are that Kennedy is a good father who has lived through difficult life circumstances. He cooperated with gardaí, made full admissions immediately on being questioned and pleaded guilty.
Ms Justice Biggs added: “I do not think that the fact his wife was having an online affair is an excuse for engaging in this grotesque plan. There is no difference to all manner of people in this country who suffer from pain and grief and difficult life circumstances. But I do acknowledge he has been a good father in difficult circumstances.”
The judge also noted Kennedy’s remorse and his history of depression, which had been largely untreated at the time of the offences. She set the headline sentence at eight years but having considered all mitigating factors she reduced it to five years with the final six months suspended for one year.
Ms Justice Biggs said it is the duty of Tusla to put in place structures to provide for Kennedy’s children so that they will not be disadvantaged by their father going into prison.
Kennedy, with an address at Mount Tallant Avenue, Harold’s Cross, Dublin 6W, pleaded guilty in July last year to soliciting a man to murder Stephanie Poirier on a date unknown between October 1st, 2019, and January 11th, 2020, both dates inclusive, within the State.
Kennedy pleaded guilty to the same offence relating to Ms Poirier’s partner, Clara Houdebrumette. Both women live in Canada.
During a sentencing hearing last year Detective Sergeant Ronan O’Malley told James Dwyer SC, prosecuting, that Kennedy’s partner had made contact with the couple, who live in rural Canada, via an online game.
Det Sgt O’Malley said that Kennedy had become aware of Facebook messages of an intimate nature between his then-wife and the couple, which included an invitation from the couple to join them in Canada.
Det Sgt O’Malley said that Kennedy told a neighbour he felt “betrayed” and that his wife had told him that she no longer loved him and had stopped wearing her wedding ring.
The detective said that Kennedy confided in AL, who told him that he could “get it sorted”.
Det Sgt O’Malley said AL told Kennedy that he could “sort” either the Canadians or Kennedy’s wife but “if you [Kennedy] go down this road it’s a dangerous road”.
The neighbour told gardaí that he did not believe that ‘AL’ had the capacity to carry out the threat and that Kennedy was being treated like a “gilly” and a “suck” and that AL was “trying to suck every penny” out of Kennedy.
The detective said Kennedy had given €8,000 to AL, who was becoming “pushy” about money and demanded a further €2,000 for his associates.
The neighbour said Kennedy was “petrified, crying and terrified” by threats made over phone calls and Whatsapp messages against him, his three children and his then-wife by AL as he demanded money, Det Sgt O’Malley said.
Det Sgt O’Malley said the neighbour and Kennedy went to a bank to withdraw money. Afterwards, Kennedy gave the neighbour his phone and a lockbox to give to Kennedy’s sister and departed without telling the neighbour where he was going.
AL later approached Kennedy’s wife at home, saying the defendant wanted a €10,000 “hit” and demanding that she come up with €1,500 inside 20 minutes and that she could pay off the remaining €500 in a week’s time.
AL told Kennedy’s wife that he himself had been beaten over Kennedy’s debt to AL’s associates and that if the money was not found she would be “kneecapped”.
AL then took a picture of the Kennedys’ front door and left. On January 10th, 2020, Kennedy’s ex-wife called gardaí when she heard banging and kicking at her front door and told them her back door mat had been lifted up as if someone was looking for a key.
She told gardaí that on January 13th, 2020, AL was kicking the front door of the Kennedys’ home shouting “hand over Bryan or there’ll be trouble”.
Det Sgt O’Malley told Mr Dwyer that Kennedy had already gotten on a ferry to England after borrowing money from neighbours to pay €8,000 to AL.
The witness said that Kennedy eventually returned and on February 11th, 2020, he was approached by AL at Nutgrove Shopping Centre when with his wife and children. The detective said that AL became aggressive and was removed by security staff.
After a search warrant of Kennedy’s sister’s house, gardaí arrested Kennedy and took him to Terenure Garda Station where he admitted to engaging AL to hurt or kill the Canadian couple.
Kennedy told gardaí he backtracked on the deal, telling AL that €10,000 was too much money. Kennedy further admitted to gardaí that he hacked his wife’s Facebook messages in order to have the Canadian couple “painted”. In interviews with gardaí, Kennedy was asked what was meant by the word “painted” and said the two were “to be killed”.
Kennedy told gardaí that he conspired to have the couple killed but never discussed the manner of the killing, later backing out and telling AL to keep the money and that the job no longer needed to be done.
Kennedy said AL had now become “incessant” about the €2,000 and that the defendant began thinking of doing the hit himself.
Det Sgt O’Malley said Kennedy, when admitting engaging a third party – AL – to kill the couple, said he was acting out of “love and heart-break”. Kennedy told gardaí he wanted to be “open and honest” about the matter, about which he was “sorry and remorseful”.
Det Sgt O’Malley told the court that, when contacted, the couple, who live in rural Quebec, expressed no concern for their wellbeing after being told of the situation.
‘No credible threat’
Defending barrister Dominic McGinn SC said Kennedy was the sole carer for his three children and that his ex-wife was in a wheelchair. Mr McGinn said AL did not have the capability to carry out his threat to the couple and that the two were never in danger.
Det Sgt O’Malley told Mr McGinn that Kennedy had been “extremely” co-operative with investigating gardaí.
Mr McGinn said his client had admitted both his “culpability and criminal intent” in soliciting AL to kill the couple but that there was “no credible threat” in the matter except to Kennedy himself and his family.
Mr McGinn said Kennedy was “forthright” with gardaí in his admissions and was “completely out of his depth in circumstances out of his control”.
The barrister said Kennedy’s way of dealing with the situation was “entirely wrong, and criminally wrong” and that his inability to cope with the situation led to his client “trying to disappear”.
Mr McGinn said there was “no tangible reality of harm” being caused to the Canadian couple and that AL had tried to “take advantage” of Kennedy.
The barrister said Kennedy had been “unproblematic” when dealing with the probation services and was “inherently unlikely to be before the court again”.