Jury retire to consider verdict in Offaly manslaughter trial

The jury in the trial of a man accused of killing Offaly publican Matt Farrell has been told by a judge to treat the evidence of a “jailhouse informant” with care and caution.

The jury in the trial of a man accused of killing Offaly publican Matt Farrell has been told by a judge to treat the evidence of a “jailhouse informant” with care and caution.

Eddie Wing (31) has pleaded not guilty to the unlawful killing of Mr Farrell at the Gaelic Bar, Daingean, Co Offaly on April 1, 2009. He has also denied burglary at the Gaelic Bar on the same date. Evidence has finished in the trial and the jury have begun deliberating.

The main prosecution witness is a so called “jailhouse informant” who claims Mr Wing confessed to the killing when they shared a cell in the Midlands Prison in late 2009.

After deliberating for just over one hour Wednesday afternoon the jury were sent home at 4pm. They will resume their deliberations today at 10.30am.

Judge Patrick McCartan earlier told the jurors that the prosecution’s case against Mr Wing rests squarely on the testimony of the jailhouse informant and that they should use care and caution in acting on this evidence.

Mr Wing gave evidence as the only defence witness and told the court that he had nothing to do with the burglary and killing.

He said the allegations of his confession to the jailhouse informant were “complete lies”. He said he didn’t know why this other man was making them up and added that he could only speculate.

Conor Devally SC, defending, said that commissions set up in Canada to look into the use of jailhouse informants had concluded that they were “the most dangerous witness upon whom to rely”. He said these commissions recommended that jailhouse informers should not be used at all.

Prosecuting counsel, Mary Rose Gearty SC, put it to the jury that they should consider whether the witness, who is not being named, had more incentive to say nothing to anyone of the alleged confession.

Judge McCartan said the witness is a former drug addict who was using heroin. He said he had shown himself to be dishonest in the past through his crimes of burglary.

The judge pointed out that a reward of €10,000 had been offered to anyone who could provide information about Mr Farrell’s killer.

The use of a jailhouse informant in this case was unique in this jurisdiction, Judge McCartan said.

He said typically this class of witness is someone who is still in custody and is hoping to exchange information for improvements to their situation or sentence.

He said in this trial the witness was in prison when he claims he heard Mr Wing’s confession but was “a free man” when he went to gardai with this information.

The witness was not at risk of going back to prison once he behaved himself and that apparently he has had a “wake up” since serving his sentence and has not gone back to crime, the judge said.

He told the jury: “If, after exercising care and caution, you are still left in the position that you have confidence that he is telling the truth and you are left with no reasonable doubt, you can convict.”

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