A man has been acquitted of the manslaughter of Offaly publican Matt Farrell during a burglary of a pub nearly three years ago.
By Declan Brennan
Eddie Wing (31), with a previous address at Roscrea, Co Tipperary had pleaded not guilty to the unlawful killing of 64-year-old Mr Farrell and to burglary at the Gaelic Bar, Daingean, Co Offaly on April 1, 2009.
During the burglary Mr Farrell suffered heart failure after he was beaten, bound with a dog lead and left to die.
It was day eight of the trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court. The jury of seven men and five woman had spent just over four hours over two days considering the verdict.
Members of the Mr Farrell’s family cried out when the verdict of not guilty was read out.
Judge Patrick McCartan thanked the jury for their service and said it had been a difficult case given the sad events involved.
He extended his deepest sympathy to the family for their great loss. He said he hoped they understood justice has it’s own way and has to be protected and respected.
During the trial the main prosecution witness was described as a “jailhouse informant” and gave evidence that Mr Wing confessed to the killing while the pair shard a cell in the Midlands Prison in late 2009.
This witness, who is not being named, is a convicted burglar and a former heroin addict with no outstanding charges..
Around a month after his release from prison in December 2009 this man went to gardai and told them Mr Wing broke down in tears in front of him one evening and said he had killed Mr Farrell.
There was no physical evidence connecting Mr Wing to the crime and under oath Mr Wing told the court that the prison informant was lying, adding that he didn’t know why.
The jury were warned a number of times of the dangers associated with the evidence from so called jailhouse informants.
They were told that two commissions of inquiry set up in Canada described jailhouse informants as the “most dangerous type of witness” and recommended against their use in trials.
After the verdict had been read out the judge thanked the jury. Mr Wing was remanded in custody at Cloverhill prison on other unrelated charges.
Judge McCartan had told the jury that the prosecution’s case against Mr Wing rested squarely on the testimony of the main prosecution witness, dubbed a “jailhouse informant”.
This man had a heroin addiction at the time of the killing and at the time of going into prison in September 2009. The court heard he had finished serving a sentence for a number of burglaries and has no outstanding charges against him.
This man told the court that, despite living in the same county, he hadn’t heard anything about the killing until October 2009. He said that this was when he was in the Midlands Prison and Mr Wing showed him a newspaper article about the crime and told him he was getting the blame for it.
Conor Devally SC, defending, put it to the witness that he must have been “living under a rock” during that time to have not heard about the killing, which was a “huge event” in the area.
The witness said didn’t tell gardai for at least three weeks after getting out of prison because he was still trying to make up his mind whether to say it or not.
He said he wasn’t aware of any reward linked to the investigation into the killing and said he never received any reward. He said he reported what he allegedly knew because he “wouldn’t like to see any old man done like that”.
Mr Wing said the allegations of his confession were “complete lies”. He said he didn’t know why this man was making them up and added that he could only speculate.
He told gardai he was with a former girlfriend in Portlaoise throughout the night of the offenses.
Mr Devally said gardai had failed to question the informant’s account properly and that this was because they were under pressure after a massive investigation had yielded no other leads.
He said the informant was “welcomed with open arms” by investigating gardai and that while this was “understandable on a human level” it was “not professional” and fell short of what the jury deserved.
Forensic scientist Dr Hilary Ramsbottom gave evidence that none of the DNA profiles found at the scene could be matched to any samples taken from potential suspects. These included a DNA sample provided by Mr Wing.
The Deputy State Pathologist said that Mr Farrell suffered head injuries during the attack and these were singled out as the principal cause of death.
Mr Farrell’s body was found lying face down on the floor with his wrists tied behind his back with a dog lead.
Dr Curtis said that the pain and stress of being beaten and left bound on the floor most likely caused Mr Farrell, who suffered from heart disease and diabetes, to have a heart attack.