Jury deliberates in trial of Cavan resident accused of tiger kidnapping

The jury in the trial of a Cavan resident accused of a €90,000 tiger kidnapping four years ago has begun deliberations at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court. Paschal Kelly (53) with an address at Cootehill, Co. Cavan, has pleaded not guilty to trespass and to false imprisonment of postmistress Susan Lawlor, her daughter Emma Carter and Italian student Gabriella Saisa at Seabury Drive, Malahide, Dublin, on September 25, 2014. Mr Kelly has also pleaded not guilty to robbing Ms Lawlor of cash at Bayside Post Office, Sutton, Dublin, and threatening to kill her, Ms Carter and Ms Saisa at an unknown location in the State. He has also denied unlawful possession of a vehicle, all on the same date.

Before directing the jurors to begin considering verdicts, Judge Karen O’Connor warned them that “identification evidence can be fraught with difficulty”. She asked the jury to bear in mind that there have been cases where “responsible” witnesses had made positive identifications of suspects which had subsequently been proven “erroneous”. In her charge to the jury, Judge O’Connor told jurors to be especially cautious around identification and to consider all the circumstances surrounding that evidence. She used an example of one Emergency Response Unit officer in the trial who had told the jury he had identified the driver of one of the vehicles used in the raid as Mr Kelly. The judge told the jurors they had to consider the time of day when making an assessment and that it was a “highly charged” situation with children and members of the public around. She told the jury to consider all prevailing factors when reaching conclusions about identification.

She also reminded the jury that a computer aided image of the suspect, generated from an eyewitness, was simply a photofit and no more than that. Judge O’Connor again asked the jury to consider what opportunity this witness had had to view the person and the time he had to make that observation. The judge also told the jury that it would need to evaluate expert witness evidence for its strengths and weaknesses. Referring to DNA evidence, she said the mere presence of DNA at a crime scene is not enough to prove a prosecution case beyond reasonable doubt as there might be an innocent or accidental association. Judge O’Connor said that while experts deal with particular parts of a case, the jury receives all the evidence upon which it will assess everything. The trial continues today when the jury of five women and seven men resume deliberations.