A murder accused told gardai he went to a country lane with armed men who he knew were planning an assault to get back a missing bag of drugs.
Leitrim native Matthew Gralton (22), of Mt Prospect, Co Roscommon pleaded not guilty to the murder of 47-year-old Christy Daly at Bog Lane, Kilbride, Clara, Co Offaly between December 29, 2013 and January 7, 2014. His co-accused Ross Allen (25), with addresses in Carrickmines, Co Dublin and Clara in Offaly, has also pleaded not guilty to murder.
At the Central Criminal Court yesterday (Tuesday, April 26) Detective Sergeant Jer Glavin agreed with prosecuting counsel Padraic Hogan BL that he interviewed Mr Allen at Portlaoise garda station on February 15, 2014.
During that interview Det Sgt Glavin said Mr Allen told him he had hidden drugs on Bog Lane, close to where Mr Daly was living in a caravan.
On the morning of December 29, at about 2am he went to collect the drugs, worth about €30,000, but couldn't find them. He phoned the man who owned the drugs to tell him they were missing and left the area.
The following morning he returned to continue the search but found nothing. "There was great panic on my part," he said in the interview. "I thought I was fucked."
He said Mr Daly was immediately suspected of having taken the drugs because his caravan was so close by.
Speaking about his relationship with the owner of the drugs, Mr Allen told gardai that he had fallen into debt when another bag of drugs that he had hidden went missing about nine months previously. He owed the drug owner €15,000 as a result and worked for him to pay off his debt. He said he would pay off between €50 and €150 by doing odd-jobs like selling drugs, hiding drugs and moving cars around.
He said he did not like his life and that he was "in a dark place" and had trouble sleeping. After he reported the missing drugs on Bog Lane he said the owner told him he would get it "sorted out".
Detective Garda John Doran told Mr Hogan that he interviewed Ross Allen at Portlaoise Garda Station on February 16, 2014.
He agreed that Mr Allen told him there was a meeting at a house in Clara with the drug owner and two other men later that evening. Garda Glavin asked him if they discussed using violence or the threat of violence against Christy Daly and he replied, "yes".
"The plan was to give him a few slaps, to find out where the stuff was or who he gave the stuff to," he said. He said he was told to get a hammer and a torch and he did so.
He said they stopped along the way to collect a sawn-off shotgun that was hidden behind a farmer's gate. Mr Allen said he knew where it was because he put it there. "I was asked to, to pay off some of my drug debt," he said.
He said he handed the gun to one of the people in the back seat and they continued on to Bog Lane. He said he was also aware that the other man had brought a firearm with him.
He said he thought the guns would be used to scare Mr Daly or anyone else they might encounter at the caravan. When they arrived at Bog Lane Mr Allen said his job was to wait at the gateway to act as a lookout. The others continued up the lane in the car. A short time later he heard two shots. "I presumed that they were warning shots," he said.
About 15 minutes later the men returned and he got back into the car and they drove off. He said the mood was "panicky" and they drove at speed. Later in the interview he said he had seen the two men taking cocaine earlier in the night and that it caused a change in their personalities. "They were fucking weird" he said.
The following day he was told to burn out the car that they had used the previous night. For this, €150 was knocked off his drug debt. He said he thought burning out the car was an unusual request because at that point he did not know that Mr Daly was dead.
When asked if he feared the drug owner he replied: "Most definitely, yes." He was asked on a number of occasions to identify the drug owner and the two men who had traveled to Bog Lane but he refused.
Speaking to Detective Garda Glavin he said that when he heard Mr Daly was dead he was shocked. "I thought they were going to frighten him with it [the shotgun] or belt him with it."
Garda Glavin asked him if he thought they would shoot Mr Daly and he replied: "Christ no."
"It made me sick to my stomach when I heard. I haven't slept since."
The trial continues before Justice Patrick McCarthy and a jury of five women and six men.