Garda killer Aaron Brady loses conviction appeal

Garda Killer Aaron Brady Loses Conviction Appeal
Aaron Brady (pictured) is serving a life sentence with a 40-year minimum having been found guilty of murdering Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe. Photo: Collins
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Alison O'Riordan and Eoin Reynolds

Updated: 12.35pm

Garda murderer Aaron Brady did not react when the Court of Appeal upheld his conviction on Thursday for shooting dead Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe.


Brady's family, who have conducted a campaign insisting on his innocence, consoled one another when Mr Justice John Edwards made it clear that the three-judge court had not been persuaded by any of the nearly 50 grounds of appeal.

Wearing a navy suit and pink tie, Brady was quickly returned to the cell area by prison officers following the judgment.

It was, Mr Justice Edwards said, a difficult case and the appeal itself was the longest in the 10-year history of the court.

The court's decision means Brady will continue serving his life sentence, with a minimum term of 40 years.


With remission for good behaviour, he will be allowed to apply for parole in February 2048, after he has spent 30 years in prison on the murder conviction.

In August 2020, Brady (33), formerly of New Road, Crossmaglen, Co Armagh, was convicted by a jury of the murder of Det Gda Adrian Donohoe during a credit union robbery at Lordship, Bellurgan, Co Louth on January 25th, 2013.

In Thursday's 363-page judgment, Mr Justice Edwards dismissed all the "broad panoply" of issues raised, including an argument by Brady that his trial should have been halted due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In their arguments before the court, Brady's lawyers said their client's case remained the only one at hearing as the pandemic took hold, and it was inappropriate for a jury to determine his guilt or innocence as people were dying of Covid.


His counsel, Michael O'Higgins SC, had said it was plausible that the jurors were worried about dying or about others close to them dying, which had deteriorated the quality of their deliberations.

In reply, Brendan Grehan SC, for the Director of Public Prosecutions, said there was not "an iota of a suggestion, never mind evidence" that the jurors felt coerced to come to court and argued that no "unbearable burden" had been placed on them.

Unprecedented public health crisis

The Court of Appeal said on Thursday that the trial judge, Mr Justice Michael White, had "carefully applied his mind... and was clearly concerned about the unprecedented public health crisis faced by all and its impact on the appellant's right to a fair trial".

Mr Justice White did not not err in directing the trial to proceed, the appellate court found.


Daniel Cahill and Molly Staunton proved to be key witnesses in Brady's trial, as they both testified they heard Brady admit to killing a "guard" or a "cop" while Brady was living in the United States.

Due to Covid restrictions in New York, "ad-hoc" arrangements were made for them to give their evidence via video-link. Mr Justice Edwards said these arrangements "may not have been ideal", but were not an error "per se".

In the case of Daniel Cahill, the court found that Brady's lawyers had not shown there was any unfairness or risk of an unfair trial.

The court also dismissed the defence's arguments regarding whether Mr Cahill had been offered an inducement by Homeland Security in the US in return for his testimony.


Mr Justice Edwards said any such suggestion could be put to Mr Cahill in cross-examination, and it is for the jury to assess Mr Cahill's credibility.

Ms Staunton told the trial that she heard Brady say he had to "carry around the guilt of having murdered a cop in Ireland".

She said in her direct evidence that Brady also claimed during a drunken "rant" to be "the most feared man in Ireland".

In relation to Ms Staunton's evidence, the court found the trial court was correct to allow the prosecution to treat her as a hostile witness when she appeared to resile from her evidence during cross-examination.


When prosecution barrister Brendan Grehan SC showed Ms Staunton a video of her original statement given to gardaí, she returned to her original position that she had heard Brady admit to murdering a "cop".

Ms Staunton's evidence was also interrupted by her boyfriend, who was in her apartment while she testified. Mr Justice Edwards said the interruptions did not pose a "real and substantial risk of an unfair trial".

He said any such risk was avoided by warnings given by the trial judge that "properly addressed the jury on the issue of who had responsibility for the interruptions, acknowledged the absence of supervision and referred to the interruptions as having been from the witness's boyfriend".

He added that the judge's remarks made it clear to the jury that the interruptions were not linked to Brady, and ensured that the trial "while not perfect, was fair".

In the court's written judgment, Mr Justice Edwards wrote: "One must step back and analyse the consequences of these interruptions and, in our opinion, whether taking each interruption separately or together, the consequence was not a breach of the integrity of the trial and did not cause prejudice to the appellant, necessitating the discharge of this jury."

The court further rejected arguments that Brady's deportation from the US in 2018 had amounted to a "de facto extradition" without the legal protections he would enjoy during an extradition process.

Mr Justice Edwards said this argument was "entirely without foundation" and the US authorities were entitled to deport Brady, who had been working for years in the US without a visa.

Earlier this year, Brady pleaded guilty to a charge that on a date between February 20th and May 7th, 2020, within the State, he video recorded the playing of an interview between Ronan Flynn, a witness at his trial, and An Garda Síochána, thus embarking on a course of conduct intended to pervert the course of justice.

He is awaiting sentencing from the Special Criminal Court for that offence.


At Brady's trial in 2020, the prosecution used various strands of circumstantial evidence to prove his guilt.

They showed that he was involved in stealing a Volkswagen Passat that was used to block the entrance to the credit union and was then used as the getaway car before being burnt out in South Armagh.

Mobile phone evidence showed that Brady and other suspects for the robbery stopped using their phones for about one hour before and after the robbery. The raiders were known to have used walkie-talkies.

The prosecution also pointed to lies Brady told gardaí when he was questioned one day after the shooting, and 10 days later when he visited Dundalk Garda station to give a voluntary statement.

In his closing speech for the prosecution, Lorcan Staines SC described Brady as a "practised liar".

He said the prosecution case was a circumstantial one and that each piece of evidence on its own could be considered no more than coincidence.

He added: "It's your personal tolerance when coincidence is put on top of coincidence, until there comes a point that it is an affront to common sense that all these little things are coincidence."

To prove that Brady was the shooter, the prosecution introduced the evidence of Molly Staunton and Daniel Cahill, who said they heard Brady confess that he "shot a cop" or "murdered a garda" on multiple occasions after Brady moved to New York following the shooting.

Brady took the stand in his defence and told the jury that he was loading cubes of laundered diesel waste onto the back of a trailer when the robbery happened.

The first time he made this claim was in October 2019, six years after he first spoke to gardaí and months after his deadline to submit an alibi.

He said he did not want to submit an alibi until he had seen all the prosecution evidence, and insisted he had nothing to do with the robbery, claiming he had lied to gardaí to cover up his involvement in diesel laundering.

The jury did not accept his testimony and found that he was one of four raiders who jumped over the wall of the credit union at the moment that the Passat blocked the car park entrance while credit union employees were preparing to drive off with a garda escort.

Det Gda Donohoe got out of the patrol car when he saw the raiders, but Brady pointed an automatic or pump action shotgun at him and fired a single shot to the head from about six feet away, killing him instantly. Det Gda Donohoe's gun remained in its holster on his hip.

The jury's verdict showed they were satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that when Brady pulled the trigger he not only intended to kill or cause serious injury, but also knew he was shooting a member of An Garda Síochána acting in accordance with his duty.

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