Monday, January 23, 2023

Eoin Reynolds

The mother of a 17-year-old who was murdered and whose body was chopped into pieces by a criminal gang has said she wishes she could see her son one last time and hear him say “I love you Mam”.

In a statement read out at a sentence hearing for two men who facilitated the murder of Keane Mulready-Woods, Elizabeth Woods said she prays for justice for her son’s “inhumane, violent and barbaric death”.

She described her son’s death as “one of the most brutal, tragic and horrifying murders in the history of Ireland”, and said she hopes no other family will go through what her family has gone through.

Det Inspector Aidan McCabe also told John Byrne SC for the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) that the chief suspect for the murder is Robert Lawlor, a “notorious” criminal who was linked to several murders. Lawlor was shot dead in Belfast in April 2020.

At the time of Mr Mulready-Woods’ murder, Lawlor was “heavily involved in a feud between rival criminal gangs in Drogheda”, the inspector told the three-judge Special Criminal Court on Monday.

Gerard Cruise (49), of Lower Sherrard Street, Dublin 1, pleaded guilty to a charge that, with knowledge of the existence of a criminal organisation, he facilitated the murder of Keane Mulready-Woods, at Rathmullan Park, Drogheda, Co Louth, between the dates of January 11th and 13th, 2020, contrary to Section 72 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006.

Criminal Paul Crosby (27), of Rathmullan Park, Drogheda, Co Louth, pleaded guilty to the same charge.

Mr Mulready-Woods was last seen alive in Drogheda on January 12th, 2020. The following day, some of the teenager’s body parts were found in a sports bag in the Moatview area of Coolock in Dublin.

Two days later, remains were found in a burning car in a laneway in the Drumcondra area. Mr Mulready-Woods’ torso was discovered on March 11th, 2020, hidden in an overgrown ravine during a search of waste-ground at Rathmullan Park.

Det Insp McCabe said Keane went missing on the late afternoon of January 12th, 2020.

On January 14th, gardaí went to the home of Gerard ‘Ged’ McKenna in Rathmullan Park in Drogheda with a search warrant. The property was confirmed as the site of Keane’s murder by DNA and blood spatter evidence.

McKenna was jailed last year for four years for assisting in the clean-up of the crime scene following the murder.

Cause of death

When Keane’s body parts were discovered State Pathologist Dr Linda Mulligan carried out a post-mortem examination but could not establish the cause of death.

There were no significant wounds prior to his death and she was able to say that the dismemberment happened after the teenager had died. A toxicology report also showed he was negative for drugs and alcohol.

Mobile phone records showed that Crosby called Keane at 5.57pm on January 12th and at 6.02pm Keane took a taxi to the Centra shop in Ballsgrove in Drogheda. He met Crosby there and Crosby paid for his taxi before they got into Cruise’s Volkswagen and drove to Rathmullan Park.

During interviews with gardaí, Cruise admitted he dropped Keane and Crosby at McKenna’s house where the murder took place.

Cruise told gardaí that everything seemed fine between Keane and Crosby and he did not know what was to happen at the house.

Det Insp McCabe said the last sighting of Keane was from CCTV footage which showed him at the back of the house in Rathmullan Park at 6.48pm with three other men, including Lawlor.

The investigation into his death and the process of identifying others involved in the matter remains ongoing, he said.

The day after the murder, Cruise bought number plates which were used on the car that was set on fire in Coolock with some of Keane’s remains inside. Cruise also bought a curtain pole which was later found at the house where Keane was murdered.

Cruise admitted to gardaí that he gave the registration plates and curtain pole to Crosby at the house.

Phone records

The detective further told the court that mobile phone examinations showed contacts between Crosby and Lawlor on the afternoon of the murder and between Crosby and McKenna.

Cruise was also seen on CCTV buying a red Toyota Corolla on January 11th, which was later seen at the rear of McKenna’s house. Bone fragments in the car were identified through DNA testing as belonging to Mr Mulready-Woods.

Gardaí found the car would not start.

Inside McKenna’s home, gardaí found blood spatter patterns that showed the victim had met a violent death. There was also a significant attempt to clean and redecorate the house.

Cruise, the inspector said, was arrested on December 8th, 2020 and over the course of 17 interviews told gardaí about his movements on the day, including dropping Crosby and Keane at McKenna’s home.

He denied having been in McKenna’s home or having any involvement in destroying evidence or renovating McKenna’s house. He also accepted he bought the number plates and the curtain pole.

He could not explain how his mobile phone came to be in McKenna’s house when gardaí raided it, and further told gardaí that Crosby offered him money to help dispose of the body, but he declined.

He accepted that he had given a bag that may have contained a drill to a person of interest in the murder investigation.

Crosby, the inspector said, was arrested on February 16th, 2021, but nothing of evidential value emerged from his four interviews.

He has more than 40 previous convictions, including for road traffic offences, possession of drugs, criminal damage, theft and fraud, and arson. While in prison, he has also been convicted of being in possession of a mobile phone.

He was also acquitted of attempted murder following a trial in February 2019.

Crosby had been accused of the attempted murder of Gerard Boyle at Knockcommon, Beauparc, Slane, on November 10th, 2016.

Mr Boyle was stabbed 28 times and forced into the boot of a car that was then pushed into a canal. He escaped from the car and swam to the canal bank where a passing taxi driver called the emergency services.

Crosby denied any involvement and a Central Criminal Court jury took just 43 minutes to find him not (NOT) guilty of the attempted murder.

The most recent of Cruise’s previous conviction was in 2010 for possession of drugs. Prior to that he was convicted of public order matters and a burglary in 1990.

Two burials

In her statement, Ms Woods wrote that she wanted the best for her son and to lose him to such an “inhumane, violent and barbaric death is absolutely shocking”.

She recalled the two burials for her son as his body parts were found at different times in different areas of the country.

On his birthday, she said the family brings cake to his grave. “Keane would never mind what presents he got as long as he had a nice cake,” she said.

She hears him call to her and battles every day with knowing that she could not help her son.

“The haunting nightmares will live with us forever,” she said. “The loss is something we will have to live with. You don’t get over it, you don’t move on.”

Ms Woods also complained that some of the media reporting relating to her son was “disturbing and deeply upsetting”. She added: “The worst part; it was my child they were talking about.”

Ms Woods said she feels vulnerable in her home and every day has to walk past the house where her son died. She said she could never have imagined that the “dark, sadistic minds” that killed her son could live in her community.

Michael Bowman SC, for Crosby, said his client had no father growing up and had difficulties with cocaine from a young age. Since going into custody, he has engaged with the Irish Red Cross and has a Gaisce Award in employment skills.

“The green shoots of recovery are well established,” he said, adding: “He is now abstinent [from drugs] and has been for some time in custody.”

Crosby is also entitled to a 25 per cent discount on whatever headline sentence the court sets due to his early guilty plea, counsel said.

Bernard Condon SC, for Cruise, said his client wants to apologise for his involvement and expresses his “horror” at what happened. He said Cruise did not know what was going to happen when he dropped Crosby and Keane off in Rathmullan Park, and he was not involved at the “top level”. Cruise is also entered an early guilty plea, counsel said.

He is a father of four with several grandchildren with whom he has a good relationship and has worked as a manual labourer, Mr Condon told the court, and handed in a number of testimonials from neighbours, family and friends which, he said, show Cruise is committed to his family and is a good neighbour who helped out with street cleaning and clearing flooding and drainage problems.

Mr Justice Tony Hunt, presiding at the three-judge court, said that the apologies offered by both accused may seem empty to the victim’s family given the “horrific” nature of the crime.

He adjourned sentencing to February 13th.

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