A mother has been cross-examined by the man accused of murdering her son at the Central Criminal Court this morning, where she told him she believed another man was involved in the killing.
However, Philip Finnegan’s mother Angela also agreed with prosecution counsel, Brendan Grehan SC, that the person she referred to was in Portlaoise Prison at the time her son went missing.
The accused man Stephen Penrose has dismissed his legal team and is now representing himself in his murder trial at the Central Criminal Court.
Opening the trial of Mr Penrose on Wednesday, Mr Grehan said that 24-year-old Philip Finnegan’s decapitated body was found buried in a shallow grave in a Kildare woods. Counsel said Mr Finnegan had “certain troubles in the past” and had taken to wearing a protective vest.
The lawyer also told the jury in his opening address that attempts had been made to cut up and burn the body of Mr Finnegan, who had been missing for almost a month and who had met a “gruesome death”.
Significantly, the barrister said, the jury will hear evidence that a bloodied glove was found in the woods which was a DNA match to the accused man Mr Penrose.
Mr Penrose (38), of Newtown Court, Malahide Road, Coolock, Dublin 17, has pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr Finnegan (24) at Rahin Woods, Rahin, Edenderry, Co Kildare on August 10th, 2016.
Giving evidence today, Mrs Finnegan told Mr Grehan that she lived at Mary Aikenhead House, on James’s Street in Dublin 8 and was the mother of six children. Philip was her second eldest child, and he was the father of three very young children, she said. She agreed that Philip had “certain problems over the years” and had made friends with Mr Penrose in August 2016.
Mrs Finnegan said she had met Mr Penrose briefly when he had previously called to her flat.
The witness said she would have been in regular phone contact with her son Philip, and he was “in good form” when she last saw him at around 10.15am on August 10th. Philip told her that morning he was going out to meet Mr Penrose.
‘See you later ma’
When asked by Mr Grehan what was the last thing Philip had said to her, Mrs Finnegan replied: “I’ll see you later ma.”
She recalled that Philip was wearing a ‘Fila’ top, a cream-coloured stab vest, tracksuit bottoms and runners that morning.
Recalling the events of August 10th, Mrs Finnegan said she was in contact with her son that morning when he was looking for directions to Cloverhill Courthouse. “I helped him as best I could,” she added.
Mrs Finnegan said she had another phone call with Philip later that day and asked him to come home.
The witness said she tried to contact Philip again at 4.40pm but was unable to. “I knew there was something wrong, there was no ringtone and I got the impression that the phone was off. I kept trying and trying to call him,” she said.
Mrs Finnegan said she was worried about Philip, and she never succeeded in contacting him.
When Mr Grehan asked the witness if it would be like her son not to make contact with her, she said: “God no, me and Philip are very close, he would always contact me.”
Mrs Finnegan went to Kevin Street Garda Station the following day at 9pm and reported her son missing.
She agreed with counsel that she had told the garda in Kevin Street about ringing Philip’s phone at 4.40pm, not getting a reply and that she believed he had gone to meet Mr Penrose the previous morning.
In cross-examination, the accused man Mr Penrose told Mrs Finnegan that he apologised for having to question her but put it to her that she had told gardaí in her statement about a “slagging match” between a named man and her son. Mrs Finnegan told Mr Penrose that she remembered that.
‘Head blown off’
Mr Penrose then read a portion of Mrs Finnegan’s statement to her, which she had given to gardaí: “[A named man] is a relation of someone in Portlaoise Prison who threatened him. A few months later Philip got a call from this person in Portlaoise Prison. I was standing beside Philip when he got the call. The man just said to Philip that he was going to take him off the map and have his head blown off.”
Following this, Mr Penrose asked Mrs Finnegan if she now believed that [the named man’s] cousin in Portlaoise Prison was involved in any way in the murder of Philip.”Yes I do,” she replied.
Mr Penrose told the judge that the “case is made up totally of this allegation”.
In re-examination, Mr Grehan asked Mrs Finnegan if the person she referred to in Portlaoise Prison had been in Portlaoise Prison during the time that her son disappeared. “Yes, he was in Portlaoise Prison during the time Philip went missing,” she replied.
Evidence this afternoon
This afternoon, paramedic Terry Devine told Mr Grehan that he received a call at 6.45pm on August 10th to attend to someone with a stab wound in Kilcock. When they arrived at Gregory’s Tavern, a man who he now knows to be Mr Penrose approached him with a wound to the inside of his left arm, close to his wrist.
The accused had socks wrapped around his wrist and his blood had “soaked” through the socks. “I asked what happened, he said he had been stabbed but was very vague. I wanted to know how big the blade was, was it serrated, I was looking for an entry and exit wound,” he said.
When Mr Grehan asked Mr Devine if he got any responses from Mr Penrose to his various questions about the blade, the witness said: “I think the response changed over time. I think he said he had an argument with his girlfriend.”
Mr Penrose was then brought to Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown before being transferred to Beaumont Hospital.
Detective Garda Robert Fitzharris said he was made aware that Mr Finnegan was a missing person and that Mr Penrose was a known associate of his. The witness said he and his two colleagues went to speak to the accused at Beaumont Hospital on August 12th to ascertain if he knew the whereabouts of Mr Finnegan.
Mr Penrose, who had a bandage covering his left arm, would not tell officers how he sustained the injury but said Mr Finnegan was present at the time. Mr Penrose told the detective that at least five males were involved in an incident in Kilcock, and he saw a male striking Mr Finnegan, who he said had been involved in a lot of “shit”, over the head with a pipe or hammer. Mr Penrose said he got a stab wound and made his escape in a car.
“He wouldn’t elaborate further and wanted to speak to Detective Sergeant Aidan Hannon,” said the witness.
Sergeant Darren Reid said he went with his two colleagues to Beaumont Hospital and the accused told him he was attacked at a location but did not disclose where that was.
Garda Darragh Lynch said Mr Penrose was very reluctant to give any detail but agreed he was with Mr Finnegan on August 10th.
Inspector Aidan Hannon said he went to see Mr Penrose in Beaumont Hospital around 11.40pm on August 12th. The accused, he said, was calm but appeared to be confused about certain matters. Mr Penrose told him that he and Mr Finnegan went to Cloverhill Courthouse on August 10th and then to buy clothes at Liffey Valley Shopping Centre before “going down the country”.
“He [Mr Penrose] said Philip was receiving a number of phone calls during the day and his phone [Mr Finnegan’s] was very active. He said Philip arranged to meet some men and an arrangement was made to meet them near Kilcock. He was unspecific when pressed about the location,” said the witness.
“He said Mr Finnegan had been in a dispute with a number of people and wanted to get himself a firearm for his own protection. He said that he pulled his Alfa Romeo car in behind the other men’s car and Mr Finnegan got out of the car and approached the other vehicle. As he did so, a man approached him, whom he recognised, and immediately stabbed Mr Penrose through the window. He said he drove away at speed, realised he had been stabbed in the wrist, stopped his car and took off his sock and wrapped it,” said Insp Hannon.
“As he drove away he [Mr Penrose] said he could see Mr Finnegan being beaten by other men in the car… I specifically asked him if he had heard a discharge of a firearm, and he said there was no firearm. He said he went to Brown’s service station in Kilcock,” he said.
Insp Hannon said they had discussed where the blue Alfa Romeo car was and Mr Penrose told him it was “got rid of or sold” and it was “bloodstained”.
The witness said he asked the accused where his clothes from that day were and Mr Penrose said he did not know as they were taken off him in Connolly Hospital.
The trial continues tomorrow before Mr Justice Alexander Owens and the jury of eight men and four women. It is expected to last between five and six weeks.