Murder accused told gardaí that Colm Horkan 'wasn't a very good' detective, court hears

Murder Accused Told Gardaí That Colm Horkan 'Wasn't A Very Good' Detective, Court Hears
Stg Michael O'Hara said defendant Stephen Silver told him: “I didn’t know what he was going to do to me so I just grabbed the gun from him and I shot him.” Photo: Collins.
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Eoin Reynolds

Stephen Silver, who denies murdering Det Gda Colm Horkan, told a garda at the scene of the shooting that the deceased “wasn’t a very good” detective, the Central Criminal Court has heard.

Sergeant Michael O’Hara was the third garda on the scene following Det Gda Horkan’s shooting and when he arrived he saw Mr Silver in handcuffs speaking to Gda Aidan Fallon. Sgt O’Hara asked Mr Silver what had happened and he recalled Mr Silver telling him that he was walking on Main St on his way to get a pizza when a man he did not know approached him and asked his name.


He said the man was wearing a Tommy Hilfiger jacket and Mr Silver spotted that he was carrying a gun. The sergeant said Mr Silver told him: “I didn’t know what he was going to do to me so I just grabbed the gun from him and I shot him.”

The sergeant continued: “I said, 'you are after shooting a detective garda', and his reply to that was, 'well, he wasn’t a very good one'.”

Stephen Silver (46), a motorbike mechanic from Aughavard, Foxford, Co Mayo has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Det Gda Horkan on June 17, 2020 at Castlerea, Co Roscommon. He is charged that he committed the murder knowing or being reckless as to whether Det Gda Horkan was a member of An Garda Síochána acting in accordance with his duty. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility.

Heard gunshots

Sgt O’Hara told prosecution counsel James Dwyer SC that he was working at a desk in Castlerea Garda Station shortly before midnight when he heard six to eight shots before a pause of about five to ten seconds and then another three or four shots. He shouted to one of his colleagues if he had heard it and a few seconds later he heard Garda Helen Gillen on the command and control radio seeking urgent assistance, saying that shots had been fired on Main St, Castlerea and a man was down.


Sgt O’Hara prepared to leave and as he did so he heard Gda Gillen again on the radio, now saying that a garda was down. The sergeant told his colleague to get onto armed support before leaving in an unmarked Hyundai garda car.

As he approached the junction of Main St and Patrick St he saw Gda Fallon and a man he now knows to be Stephen Silver. Mr Silver was wearing dark trousers, dark boots, a black t-shirt and black leather waistcoat. He had long hair in a ponytail, a dark beard and he was wearing glasses.

Gda Fallon informed the sergeant that Det Gda Colm Horkan had been shot. After the exchange with Mr Silver, Sgt O’Hara said the accused man started to take steps backwards, away from the scene towards Patrick St. Sgt O’Hara said he took Mr Silver’s left hand “to stop him escaping”. Gda Fallon took his other arm. Sgt O’Hara noticed the gun on the ground and was concerned Mr Silver might try to get it, he said.

As the two gardaí held him, Mr Silver began to “cough deliberately into my face,” the sergeant said, adding, “he was nearly trying to bring up spit. I asked him to stop, he kept doing it, he was a strong man, he was hard to restrain and hold even though he was cuffed at the front.”


Gda Gillen was trying to resuscitate Gda Horkan and the sergeant called to three bystanders and asked them to get a defibrillator from his garda car. They were initially reluctant to move, he said, adding: “I could see the horror nearly in their faces.”

As the sergeant looked around he could see the firearm, Det Gda Horkan’s unmarked garda car and a number of shells from bullets near the car. One of the tyres on Gda Horkan’s car was flat and there was what appeared to be a bullet hole in the window of Gannon’s travel agents.

A few minutes later backup gardaí arrived and Mr Silver was taken by car to Castlerea Garda Station. The sergeant said Mr Silver “continued to struggle with us” until the extra gardai arrived.


Under cross-examination, Sgt O’Hara agreed with defence counsel Roisin Lacey SC that Mr Silver had sweat “running off his forehead into his face” when he first arrived and was breathing heavily and spoke loudly.


Ms Lacey asked why the sergeant had not mentioned in statements he gave in 2020 that Mr Silver struggled until extra gardaí arrived. He replied: “When you sit down here to give direct evidence, that’s when it comes out. Going back to that time here, you recall everything you saw. I must have left it out of my statement.”

Ms Lacey said that today was the first time anyone had heard of the sergeant’s concern that Mr Silver might try to get the gun and she questioned whether from his vantage point he could have seen the gun on the ground beside Det Gda Horkan’s car.

He replied: “Just going through it here today, it’s all coming out, I’m just recalling everything as it happened.”

Gda Aidan Fallon said in his direct evidence on Tuesday that as he tried to do CPR on Det Gda Horkan the accused man “smirked” and told him he was “doing it wrong” and that he was “killing him”.


Today he told Gerardine Small SC, for the defence, that he had made a mistake in his direct evidence when he said that he didn’t look at Mr Silver. He added: “I did look up because I seen him smirk.” Ms Small asked why he had not mentioned the smirk in his statements to investigating gardai in 2020. He said: “It is what I have remembered up to this stage.”

Ms Small suggested it was a significant detail and asked why he didn’t put it in his statement. “I’m not sure,” he replied. “Things became clearer as time went on.” He said he’s been “living with all this information” since the shooting and that once he made his statement in 2020 he didn’t speak to the investigation team again. He added: “I didn’t want to speak about it again and yesterday I gave my truth of what happened on that day. I gave my direct evidence yesterday of what happened.”

He agreed with Ms Small that when Mr Silver was put into the garda car he was “very compliant” and seemed “surprisingly happy” at the directions given to him by gardaí.

Gun shown to jury

Sgt Bernard Kilroy told prosecution counsel Mr Delaney that he also responded to Gda Gillen’s call for assistance and at the scene he found Det Gda Horkan’s Sig Sauer handgun. The gun, inside a blue evidence bag, was shown to the jury.

John Drury told Michael Delaney SC, for the prosecution, that he lives in a house overlooking the scene where Det Gda Horkan was shot. That night he went to bed at about 10.30pm and awoke when he heard a bang on the gate to the front of his home. He went to his bedroom window and saw two men, one of them wearing a backpack and a high visibility jacket. He said: “When I looked out, they were wrestling, I heard two bangs, I didn’t know what it was. The next thing the man in the high vis rolled back, the other man wasn’t moving and there were three more bangs again. He had rolled about one metre onto one knee. I could see the gun and I could see the three bangs.”

He heard the man with the gun say something like “Castlerea attack” or “attack Castlerea”. “They were the only two words I picked up,” he said. The man with the gun then got up and walked out of view and Mr Drury went to check on his children. From another bedroom he looked out and could see the shooter “was just sitting there, there was commotion, shouting and roaring, but I didn’t see anyone else, just him.”
Mr Drury called gardaí.

The trial continues in front of Mr Justice Paul McDermott and a jury of seven men and five women.

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