28 Sept 2022

DPP drops murder charge after identification evidence is ruled out

DPP drops murder charge after identification evidence is ruled out

A man's second murder trial has collapsed at the Central Criminal Court, with the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) dropping the charge after the trial judge ruled that gardai would not be allowed to identify the accused on CCTV.

Alan Harte (40), who has a previous conviction for disposing of his murdered friend's body, went on trial last week charged with the murder of 61-year-old wheelchair user Anthony Rogers. Harte, with an address at Island Quay Apartments, East Wall, Dublin 3 had pleaded not guilty to the murder of Mr Rogers at Robinson's Court, Cork Street, Dublin 8 on November 6, 2016.

On Thursday Sean Gillane SC for the DPP told Mr Justice Alex Owens at the Central Criminal Court that the prosecution wants to enter a "nolle prosequi" and drop the murder charge against Harte. He said the decision was made after the DPP had considered various rulings made by the trial judge this week in the absence of the jury.

Mr Justice Owens had ruled that the prosecution could not adduce the evidence of two gardai who said they could identify Harte on CCTV. The judge also ruled out alleged comments made by Harte to gardai 24 days after Mr Rogers was killed. After the DPP entered the nolle prosequi, Mr Justice Owens discharged the jury of five women and seven men and exempted them from further service for ten years. 

In his opening speech, Mr Gillane had told the jury that Mr Rogers - who used an electric wheelchair after half of one leg was amputated -  lived at Robinson's Court, a small social housing development in Dublin's Liberties with elderly residents who were known to each other in a "neighbourly way".

Sharon Farrell gave evidence that on the day of the killing at around 2.30pm, she was returning to the flat complex when a man approached her and said: "Maureen".

Ms Farrell explained that she asked the man, who was walking away from Robinson's Court, if he meant Maureen who lived upstairs in the flat complex.  The witness said that the man then said: "Maureen upstairs knows he is a child molester". 

Ms Farrell testified that the man, who was in his thirties, was wearing a short beige jacket with a zip and a beige baseball cap. She said the man was "kind of small", had a little gap between his teeth and was carrying a Dunnes Stores bag under his left arm. 

Ms Farrell explained to the jury that she had told the man that she did not know what he was talking about. "That's all he said and he kept walking," she added. 

The witness said she kept walking in the direction of her home when she heard her neighbour Mr Rogers screaming "help me I'm dying". Ms Farrell went to Mr Rogers flat and found him lying on the ground with "blood everywhere, all over the place".

A postmortem revealed multiple knife injuries to Mr Rogers, with the most serious injuries to the left side of his head and neck area, where there were 11 stab wounds. There was another stab wound to the right side of Mr Rogers' face and two stab wounds to his neck, one of which punctured his jugular vein and the other the back of his throat above his Adam's apple.

It was the second time that Harte has been charged with murder. He was previously found not guilty by a unanimous jury verdict of the murder of his friend Peter Gunn (29) in Phibsborough in Dublin on January 4, 2009. He pleaded guilty to disposing of Mr Gunn's body at Dunsoghly Lane in the capital. 

Peter Gunn was found dead at Dunsoghly Lane on January 15th, 2009. He had been missing for 11 days and a post-mortem indicated he had been stabbed to death. In 2014 Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy sentenced Harte to six years imprisonment with the final three suspended for disposing of Mr Gunn's body and impeding the garda investigation. An appeal by the DPP to have the sentence increased was later rejected by the Court of Appeal. In delivering the judgement of the three-judge court in 2015, Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan said Harte had gone with Mr Gunn to a public house on Parnell Street in the capital and at around midnight they were joined by another person, Kastriot Boza.

Mr Justice Sheehan said the three men left and travelled to Boza's house where Mr Gunn was stabbed and killed. Another man, sometime after the killing, drove his car to the flat and unknowingly assisted Harte and Boza in bringing the body of the deceased to a remote lane at the back of the airport, Mr Justice Sheehan said.

At that location, the judge said Harte and Boza removed the deceased's body from the car and put it in a water-filled trench.

Boza (46), who was later put in the witness protection programme, was sentenced to six years imprisonment with the final two suspended. His sentence was reduced by two years in the first criminal case heard by the new Court of Appeal in November 2014.

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