There is “not one iota of evidence” that the accused man James Flynn was at the Lordship Credit Union during the robbery in which Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe was shot dead, a barrister has told the Special Criminal Court.
Bernard Condon SC, for Mr Flynn, told the three-judge, non-jury court that the prosecution had invited them to jump into a “chasm” with “no evidence whatsoever”.
In the absence of evidence that Mr Flynn was at the credit union, Mr Condon said the prosecution relied on connecting Mr Flynn to the theft of a Volkswagen Passat in Clogherhead, Co Louth, which was allegedly used in the robbery. Mr Condon added the prosecution has not proven his client stole the Passat.
He pointed to what he called “problematic” CCTV footage of the alleged journey Mr Flynn took after the Passat was stolen, saying the timings of the car’s movements were “implausible”. One 10-minute journey was alleged to have been done in a little over six minutes, while another 21-minute journey appears to take 27 minutes.
He said the timings in relation to the CCTV footage of the cars was “deeply problematic”, adding it would be “dangerous” to place any weight on the theory that the footage shows Mr Flynn’s car travelling north from Clogherhead with the stolen Passat.
He said the Passat may have been stolen before Mr Flynn’s BMW is alleged to have even arrived in Clogherhead, and where the stolen Passat was taken to before the credit union robbery two days later has not been established. Mr Condon also said if one person steals a car it does not mean they are responsible for everything the car does thereafter.
It is the prosecution’s case that after the credit union robbery, Mr Flynn travelled in his BMW 5-Series in convoy with the Passat to remote Cumson’s Lane in Armagh where the Passat was burned out.
Mr Condon said the evidence of a farmer who saw two cars travelling towards the burn site that night was that he was “100 per cent sure” the BMW had blue headlights. Mr Flynn’s car does not have blue headlights, counsel said, leading to the “obvious conclusion that this isn’t James Flynn’s car,” counsel said.
Mr Condon said the prosecution is faced with a “stumbling block” as it cannot prove that Mr Flynn was at the credit union or that he was at the burn site. He described the evidence in relation to the movement and theft of the Passat as “threadbare”.
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.
Both accused 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 Condon said his client denies both charges “from start to finish”. He accused the prosecution of using “weak associations” between his client, Brady and others to try to get a conviction and warned that the evidence of some witnesses has been contaminated by media coverage of the robbery since 2013.
He said the prosecution case was “littered with theory, speculation and suspicions” which fall below the standard required in a criminal trial.
The court cannot, he said, assume that because Brady has been convicted in a different court that association with him is evidence of the guilt of the accused in this case.
The only evidence in this case is that which has been presented and there cannot be “guilt by association”, Mr Condon said. Counsel added it is clear that Mr Flynn and Brady were friends and lived in the same area, and therefore contact between them around the time of the robbery does not amount to anything suspicious.
As part of its circumstantial case, Mr Condon said, the prosecution claimed members of the alleged burglary and robbery gang called gardaí and claimed a group of men were in the yard of Mr Flynn’s home, near Lordship, in the early hours of the morning four days before the robbery.
The prosecution said this was a test of garda response times, a theory which Mr Condon described as an “overreach”, adding the evidence was “weak” and does not stand up to analysis.
He said gardaí are unlikely to treat intruders at a yard with the same urgency as an armed robbery on a credit union. “The idea that this is a dry run to time a garda response is an extraordinary stretch,” he said, adding it is more likely that there were actually intruders at the house.
Mr Condon also described evidence of two alleged scoping exercises on the credit union in the 24 hours before the robbery as weak and said the prosecution had not provided the court with evidence of what could be seen from where Mr Flynn is said to have been observing the credit union.
He said there was a suggestion Brady had given a false alibi to gardaí, but Mr Condon said there was no evidence his client had done so. “What others do cannot be visited upon me,” Mr Condon added.
Mr Condon will conclude his closing arguments on Friday. Mr Justice Tony Hunt is presiding with Judge Sarah Berkeley and Judge Alan Mitchell.