Murder Trials Continue in Ireland, each day we have more and more murder trials. What happened to the Ireland of the rare murder?

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Murder trial Alleged gunman who ‘executed’ David Douglas was ‘significantly’ involved in murder plan, court hears

Lee Canavan (31) is the fourth person to appear before the courts charged in connection to the murder of Mr Douglas (55), who was shot six times in July 2016

Lee Canavan

Lee Canavan


March 30 2021 07:35 PM

The man alleged to have been the gunman who “executed” David Douglas five years ago was “crucially and significantly” involved in the planning of the murder and was “up to his neck in the enterprise”, the judges of the Special Criminal Court have been told.

Sean Gillane SC, prosecuting, stressed that the actions of 31-year-old Lee Canavan could not be “divorced” from the actions of Freddie Thompson, Gareth Brophy and Nathan Foley, who have all been jailed in connection with the murder of Dublin man Mr Douglas.

Mr Canavan, with an address at Edenbrook, Rathfarnham, Dublin 14, has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Mr Douglas (55), who was shot six times at Shoestown, Bridgefoot Street, Dublin 1, on July 1, 2016.

The accused also denies a second charge of criminal damage to a Suzuki Swift vehicle at Strand Road, Sandymount, on July 4, 2016, the property of Teresa Devoy.

Mr Canavan is the fourth person to appear before the courts charged in connection to the murder.

The State is alleging that Mr Canavan was “the person who literally pulled the trigger” after entering Mr Douglas’ shop shortly after 4pm on the day of the shooting.

Closing the prosecution case today, Sean Gillane SC said Mr Douglas was executed by a firearm in the middle of the day in his business premises on a busy street.

He said the Dubliner had been undoubtedly murdered but the central question was who had carried it out.

However, the barrister said the non-jury court must be satisfied that there was a plan to carry out the murder in attempting to answer that question.

Mr Gillane noted that there was “overwhelming evidence” in the case and the only rational conclusion to be drawn was that Mr Douglas’ murder had been “meticulously planned”.

The sourcing of four vehicles had provided logistical support to the individuals carrying out the killing and the use of a semi-automatic pistol with its serial number removed was “brazenly” left at the scene, next to the deceased’s head, he said.

Mr Gillane said the court must address the essential elements of the plan, its participants and how they had each contributed to the incident.

Counsel reminded the three judges that a stolen Mercedes car, “the ultimate murder vehicle”, had no innocent purpose and transported the “ultimate trigger puller” to and from the scene of the killing.

The occupants of the Mercedes had transferred to a stolen silver Suzuki Swift, “the ultimate getaway car”, within minutes after the killing, he said.

Furthermore, counsel said a silver Ford Fiesta had a manifest role in “ferrying people” to and from “the plan” and a blue Mitsubishi Mirage had rammed the Suzuki before its attempted burning.

Mr Gillane added: “Vehicles do not commit murder, people do and while the court is concerned in reaching the appropriate verdict in relation to Mr Canavan, his actions cannot be divorced from the actions of Freddie Thompson, Gareth Brophy and Nathan Foley”.

In the same way that a dancer and the dance cannot be separated, the lawyer said, each of the other men’s actions “fed into” the case against the accused. It was not a novel proposition that people commit crimes together, he added.

In 2018, Frederick ‘Fat Freddie’ Thompson (41) was jailed for life by the Special Criminal Court for the murder of Mr Douglas.

In 2019, Nathan Foley (22) of Maryland, Dublin 8, was jailed for six years after he pleaded guilty to assisting a criminal organisation by driving one of four cars and buying mobile phones used in the offence.

Gareth Brophy (26) was jailed in February 2020 for ten years by the Special Criminal Court for his role as getaway driver.

Regarding Mr Canavan, counsel said his actions on the day were “intimately connected” to the commission of this offence and he had contributed to the crucial end result, namely the killing of Mr Douglas.

Furthermore, the movement of the vehicles that day proved beyond any doubt that they were “instruments of murder” and inextricably lead to the conclusion that the occupants of the cars were participants of the plan and had been acting in concert on the day, he indicated.

Mr Gillane said circumstantial evidence was important in the case and it would be an affront to common sense to treat the pieces of evidence as “pure coincidence” or in “pure isolation”.

The plan was organised as a wheel with the killing at its centre and a number of spokes weaved inwards and outwards, he said, beginning with the crucial starting point of the Fiesta and Suzuki travelling in convoy on the morning of July 1.

This was the first major building block in the plan to murder Mr Douglas and from that point on the clock “was ticking for him”, he said.

A man wearing a red top, grey bottoms and holding an umbrella can be seen emerging from the driver’s side of the Mercedes on Merton Avenue and being picked up by the driver of the Fiesta around 10.41am, he said.

It is the prosecution’s case that the same man, Mr Canavan, can be seen approaching a shop on Donore Avenue and walking back in the direction of the Fiesta, he said.

In addition, the barrister said that the Suzuki was “coincidentally” driven by a person in a red top that morning.

Mr Gillane stressed that Mr Canavan was crucially and significantly involved in the position of the murder car, execution car and getaway car by 10.41am that morning and before the afternoon was reached he was “up to his neck in this enterprise”.

By 3.55pm that day, the wheel was turning with all spokes leading in and out of the central purpose of the plan, which was to murder Mr Douglas, he said.

Mr Gillane said a level of criticism was made against eyewitness Shane Egan by the defence, when he gave a second statement to gardai clarifying that he had not actually seen the shooter’s hair as his hood was up.

There was simply no mystery to this, said Mr Gillane, and Mr Egan had admitted to gardai that he might have been in error in his first statement when he told gardai that the shooter had dark hair.

Defence counsel Michael Bowman SC said the prosecution case was that his client was “literally the man who pulled the trigger” and this carried a very real risk as it was “referable to the colour red”.

“We hear so frequently of the red top that we come to automatically connect that to the individual as though there is no alternative prospect,” said Mr Bowman, adding that the court was being invited to determine that any time it sees a flash of red then it can only be Mr Canavan.

“The prosecution case is that red equals Lee Canavan because on the prosecution case Lee Canavan is wearing red,” he argued, adding that the height of the State’s case was entirely dependent on the red top.

Pointing to the evidence given by Gda McAvinue and Det Sgt Whitelaw, Mr Bowman said there was a marked reluctance on their part to acknowledge the presence of what was most apparent in the CCTV footage, the man’s “distinctive ginger hair”.

Garda Patrick McAvinue and Detective Sergeant Adrian Whitelaw gave recognition evidence in the trial last week identifying the accused in CCTV footage taken on the day of the killing.

The lawyer indicated that there was no note taken by gardai of what eyewitness Mr Egan had told them at the scene on July 1. Mr Egan had later acknowledged to gardai that he had a concern with his own identification of the shooter, said counsel.

He argued that a swab taken from the pistol grip of the gun contained identifiable DNA attributable to another man, who was later arrested for Mr Douglas’ murder.

The lawyer concluded by saying that it was not news to anyone of his client’s association with Thompson, Brophy and Foley and the fact he had been involved with vehicles in the past in circumstances where he had no entitlement to be in those cars.

“If the court accepts that Mr Canavan was driving cars he was not entitled to drive, this communicates nothing in the context of murder,” he added.

Evidence was previously given that the accused had been associated with 22 vehicles and could not establish ownership, tax or insurance of these cars when he was stopped by gardai.

Mr Justice Michael MacGrath presiding, alongside Judge Sinéad Ní Chúlacháin and Judge Dermot Dempsey, remanded Mr Canavan in custody until May 20, when the court will deliver judgment on the case.

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