A man jailed for life for murdering Kenneth O’Brien – who he shot in the head and dismembered in his back garden – spent time in jail for firearms offences linked to dissident republicans.
Paul Wells (50), a father of five with an address at Barnamore Park, Finglas, Dublin, was handed down the mandatory sentence of life after a Central Criminal Court jury found him guilty.
It can now be revealed that Wells has associated with dissident republicans for most of his adult life, and is closely linked to a south Dublin man who has been convicted of terrorism offences in a European country.
Originally from Ballyfermot, Wells was known to gardaí and had amassed four convictions for firearms offences by 1996.
Although he was held in Cloverhill while awaiting trial for the murder of Mr O’Brien, Wells has spent periods of time in the republican wing of Portlaoise prison over the years.
He was sentenced to seven years in jail in 1996 for firearms offences. He was found with a cache of weapons including two revolvers, a sawn-off shotgun, three sawn-off rifles and air rifle. It’s believed the weapons belonged to dissidents.
He was also used by the Real IRA in its extortion of people and businesses.
Wells looked calmly ahead and did not react when the jury delivered its verdict yesterday afternoon, after just over five hours of deliberations.
As he was led out into custody, he mouthed “I’m very sorry” to Mr O’Brien’s heartbroken family.
Wells had pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr O’Brien (33) at his Finglas home between January 15 and 16, 2016.
He admitted that he shot him dead but said it happened when they struggled during a row after Mr O’Brien turned up at his home with a gun.
Wells claimed he shot Mr O’Brien in his garden shed after the pair became involved in a scuffle. He claimed it was self-defence. Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis gave evidence of the gun being pressed against the back of Mr O’Brien’s head before he was shot.
After shooting him in the head, Wells then dragged Mr O’Brien’s body into his back garden and dismembered it with a chainsaw.
After his arrest, Wells described the scene in an interview with gardaí as “pure carnage”.
He subsequently put the torso in a suitcase and his head and limbs in shopping bags, which he then dumped in the Grand Canal in Co Kildare.
The torso was found on January 16, 2016, then nine further body parts were found in four shopping bags in the canal on January 25.
Wells claimed Mr O’Brien had wanted to have his partner Eimear Dunne murdered so he could bring their young son Charlie to live with him in Australia but Wells refused to kill her.
Wells remained motionless in the dock as the verdict was delivered yesterday, his eyes flicking from the jury to Mr Justice Paul McDermott.
Michael O’Higgins SC, defending, said his client had asked him to say he and the deceased were close friends and he deeply regretted what happened.
He accepted the jury’s verdict but “contends it is an error,” indicating he would be appealing it.
Mr Justice Paul McDermott offered his condolences to Mr O’Brien’s family and said the circumstances of his death “were undoubtedly distressing and shocking” for them.
He acknowledged the “dignity with which they have borne that” in the trial, during which many “unpleasant things” were said.
He handed down the mandatory life sentence, backdating it to February 6, 2016, when Wells went into custody.
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