An organised criminal gang of at least five people with good local knowledge targeted the Lordship Credit Union for the robbery that resulted in the fatal shooting of Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe, a barrister has told the Special Criminal Court.
Lorcan Staines SC is closing the case for the State in the trial of two men accused of conspiring to commit a series of “creeper burglaries” and of taking part in the fatal credit union robbery.
On Monday, Mr Staines told the three-judge, non-jury court that he is relying on circumstantial evidence involving CCTV footage and mobile phone data analysis to show that Brendan Treanor, James Flynn and others were in contact with one another and in close-proximity to where the creeper burglaries happened in the early hours of the morning.
In relation to the robbery, Mr Staines said it is a matter of fact that it was carried out by a gang of at least five people, four of whom jumped the wall of the credit union car park and approached the cars that were about to leave carrying armed gardaí and cash.
Mr Staines said there was a fifth person driving the getaway car and the court can infer that others, including spotter cars providing real time information, were involved in the timing and logistics.
Just as the convoy of credit union workers and gardaí were about to exit the car park at about 9.30pm, a Volkswagen Passat blocked the entrance and the four raiders jumped over the wall with “perfect timing”, counsel said.
The credit union was targeted, Mr Staines said, because it had been robbed two years earlier, in August 2011, when the raiders got away with more than €22,000 in cash plus cheques. It was known locally as “a target where there was good money to be made,” he said.
There was evidence that Mr Treanor knew about the previous raid and, counsel said, James Flynn “must have known of it” given that he lives “a stone’s throw” from the credit union.
The court can also be satisfied that the driver of the getaway car was a skilled driver, able to travel at high speed on wet roads. The driver had knowledge of the local back roads leading to the remote, rural area across the Border in south Armagh where a Volkswagen Passat allegedly used in the raid was burnt out.
James Flynn, counsel said, told police in Northern Ireland that he is from that area, knows those roads and could take any number of different routes to get around.
Mr Staines said there is evidence that those involved had accents from the Border region and from all the evidence, the court could be satisfied that they are dealing with a local gang.
Counsel said there was further evidence that members of the alleged gang checked garda response times four days earlier when they called gardaí to James Flynn’s home, Dunroamin House, alleging that some men were in the yard.
Mr Staines pointed to further evidence that radio scanners and walkie-talkies were found in Dunroamin House. Counsel said those are not unique items, but it is another “coincidence” that walkie-talkies were used in the Lordship robbery.
He further pointed to what the prosecution alleges were two scoping exercises at Lordship Credit Union by Aaron Brady and James Flynn the day prior to the robbery and earlier on the day of the robbery.
Mr Staines said the gang involved knew the garda escort would be armed and that is why they took the added risk of bringing a shotgun and handgun.
It is clear from CCTV footage, he said, that the four men who came over the wall knew which car contained armed gardaí as the men with the guns moved directly towards it. The others used a hammer to break the windows of the cars containing the cash.
Mr Staines also tried to link the two accused and Aaron Brady to the theft of the Passat which was allegedly used in the robbery.
The Passat, he said, was stolen from outside a home in Clogherhead, Co Louth in the early hours of January 23rd, 2013.
Mr Staines showed the court CCTV footage matched with phone messages and calls between various phones that, he said, establishes that at 1.55am, Jimmy Flynn arrived at Aaron Brady’s then-girlfriend’s home to get him to come out and “get into the car so they can go to Clogherhead to steal the Volkswagen Passat that was used in the murder of Detective Garda Donohoe”.
Mr Staines used CCTV to show what he said was Mr Flynn’s car travelling southwards to Clogherhead, looking for a car to steal before returning northwards “in convoy” with the stolen Passat.
On the day of the robbery, Mr Staines said the phones of five people allegedly involved in the robbery, including Mr Flynn’s and Mr Treanor’s, went dead at the same time shortly before the robbery.
He asked the court to consider whether this could be coincidence, adding: “At what point does coincidence become an affront to common sense?”
Mr Staines also detailed numerous car thefts in 2012 and 2013, which he alleges can be linked to the “gang”.
Counsel used mobile phone cell-site data and CCTV from outside Dunroamin House to show what he said are links between Mr Treanor, Mr Flynn, Brady and the cars that were subsequently stolen.
On January 11th, 2013, Mr Staines said a Toyota Avensis with a satnav was stolen from outside a house in Mullingar. The prosecution alleges that the same satnav was recovered three months later when gardaí stopped and searched James Flynn’s father, Eugene Flynn Snr, at Dublin Airport.
When gardaí analysed the satnav, they saw it had traced journeys to Dunroamin House. CCTV showed that at 4.23am on January 30th, 2013, a car left Dunroamin House and at the same time the satnav recorded a journey from Dunroamin House towards Belfast International Airport.
Mr Flynn, counsel said, has previously said that he went to a Manchester United game in Old Trafford on that date.
Mr Staines said the satnav then showed a return journey from the environs of Belfast Airport in the direction of Dunroamin House the following day.
He said there is evidence to satisfy the court beyond reasonable doubt that the accused men were involved in the creeper burglaries.
Brendan Treanor (34), previously of Emer Terrace, Castletown Road, Dundalk, Co Louth, and James Flynn (32), from South Armagh, are charged with the robbery of €7,000 at Lordship Credit Union in Bellurgan, Co Louth, on January 25th, 2013.
Both men are also charged that between September 11th, 2012, and January 23rd, 2013, they conspired with convicted Garda-killer Aaron Brady and others to enter residential premises with the intention of stealing car keys.
The prosecution alleges that Mr Treanor and Mr Flynn were part of a group of young men who conspired to break into houses to steal car keys and then quietly make off with the cars.
They have pleaded not guilty to each charge.
Aaron Brady (31), previously of New Road, Crossmaglen, Co Armagh, is serving a life sentence with a 40-year minimum having been found guilty of murdering Det Gda Adrian Donohoe and of the robbery at Lordship. He denied any involvement in the robbery and is awaiting an appeal against his conviction.
Mr Staines will continue his closing speech in relation to the Lordship Credit Union robbery on Tuesday. Counsel for the two accused will begin their speeches on Wednesday.