Limerick gardai 'avoided collision' with balaclava-clad motorcyclist

Fintan Walsh

Reporter:

Fintan Walsh

Judge Marian O’Leary adjourned the matter for further submissions, to December 14 at Limerick District Court. Pictured is Thomas O’Neill

Judge Marian O’Leary adjourned the matter for further submissions, to December 14 at Limerick District Court. Pictured is Thomas O’Neill

A LIMERICK man accused of dangerous driving while wearing a balaclava on a motorbike has had his case at Limerick District Court adjourned for further submissions.

Thomas O’Neill, 29, of Beechgrove Avenue, Ballinacurra Avenue, faces one charge of dangerous driving following an alleged incident on March 27 last.

Giving evidence, Garda Fiona O’Connell said that she and Garda John Keane observed two motorbikes travelling towards the unmarked patrol car in the Synge Drive area at 10.08pm.

She said that it is the State’s case that they were “forced to stop to avoid a collision” as the second bike was travelling on the incorrect side of the road. She alleged that this bike was driven by Thomas O’Neill.

She stated in court that they followed the bike riders through Collins Avenue, Markievicz Drive, and Donoughmore Crescent, but could not observe the accused after he allegedly drove past bollards.

Gda O’Connell presented CCTV footage to the court, showing two people riding motorbikes in the area at the time. When she described his clothing, solicitor Sarah Ryan argued that she was not notified of this evidence.

Gda O’Connell said that Mr O’Neill was allegedly wearing a “ski mask or balaclava” with his eyes and nose showing and “wouldn’t be like what you would see in the films”. Ms Ryan said that she wasn’t notified of this evidence.

Gda O’Connell said that they visited his house, where his wife April Collins was present at 10.15pm, and that she allegedly said that O’Neill was at his mother’s house in Lenihan Avenue.

Ms Ryan said: “You say that you went searching for the vehicle, but that is not in your statement.” She added that it was also not in the State’s statement that they were “forced to stop”.

O’Neill’s solicitor asked if the gardai had checked the additional cameras around the address at Beechgrove Avenue.

“Those cameras are easily-accessible by the State,” Ms Ryan argued, to which Gda O’Connell replied: “My understanding was that they were not working.”

Gda O’Connell told the court that they drove to the house on Lenihan Avenue and “passed it”.

Ms Ryan stated: “You were told that he might be there. You went to Lenihan Avenue but you didn’t bother knocking on the door.”

Ms Ryan said that her client “says that he was not the person on the bike”. She added that he “didn’t have any direct involvement with you until this matter”.

Gda O’Connell said: “I would see him regularly. I am 100% satisfied [that it was him]. I don’t socialise with the guy. I don’t know him in that sense. I know his family well. I am very familiar with his family.”

Gda John Keane said that he was “100% satisfied” that he saw Thomas O’Neill on the night, and that he “would have a couple of dealings” with the accused.

He said that April Collins allegedly told him that the accused had left 15 minutes earlier. Ms Ryan then said: “I suspect that the State doesn’t have a strong case, and that they are just adding little bits of information.”

She asked Gda Keane why were the details of the visit “left out” of the statement. She said that they didn’t go to Ms Collins’ house for a “cup of tea” and that it was part of their investigation. He replied that it was “left out in error”.

Ms Ryan argued that their passing Lenihan Avenue was to “either confirm your suspicion or take him out of the frame”. He replied: “There was no suspicion.” 

The defending solicitor stated O’Neill also “had no dealings” with the garda. He said that he “would know O’Neill from other instances”.

Ms Ryan asked for the case to be dismissed and that “there is not enough evidence”. Judge O’Leary adjourned the matter for further submissions, on December 14.