An eyewitness has told the Special Criminal Court how a gunman “smirked” and walked away after firing shots into the shop where Dublin man David Douglas was murdered.
The non-jury court also heard that the man accused of the murder was arrested on suspicion of criminal damage after he was found travelling at speed in a stolen vehicle which had repeatedly crashed into another car in south Dublin three days after the shooting.
Lee Canavan had €1,065 in cash and his clothing smelled of petrol when gardaí stopped him and Nathan Foley in Crumlin, in one of the four cars allegedly used in the killing of Mr Douglas.
Mr Canavan (31), of denbrook, Rathfarnham, Dublin 14, has pleaded not guilty to murdering shoe shop manager Mr Douglas (55), who was shot six times with injuries to his chest, neck, back, torso, elbow and jaw at Shoestown, Bridgefoot Street, Dublin 1, on July 1st, 2016.
The accused also denies a second charge of criminal damage to a Suzuki Swift vehicle at Strand Road, Sandymount, on July 4th, 2016, the property of Teresa Devoy.
It is the prosecution’s case that this was a “meticulously and carefully planned assassination” and Mr Canavan was “the person who literally pulled the trigger” after entering Mr Douglas’ shop shortly after 4pm on the day of the shooting.
Giving evidence today, Shane Egan told prosecuting counsel Sean Gillane SC that he was sitting in traffic in his van on Bridgefoot Street at about 4pm on July 1st, when he saw a man walking up the hill from Oliver Bond Street in Dublin’s Liberties. “There was something strange about him which caught my attention,” he said.
The witness said the man walked past ‘Busy Bees’, an after-school service on Bridgefoot Street and went into the entrance of Shoestown. “He stopped at the entrance and then I heard bangs, I thought they were fireworks at first,” he continued, adding that he had heard five or six bangs in total.
Mr Egan testified that he saw the man jump backwards out of the shop and walk back down the street. “He wasn’t running, just walking. He smirked at that stage and went around the corner in the direction of Oliver Bond Street,” he said. The witness said he heard a female scream inside the shoe shop so he ran over to the entrance of Shoestown. “I saw a man on the ground, he had been shot and blood was coming out of his chest,” he said.
Describing the alleged shooter, Mr Egan said he was about 5ft 8in or 5ft 10in in height but less than 6ft, in his late 20s or early 30s with stubble on his face and was wearing a hoodie.
In cross-examination, defence counsel Michael Bowman SC put it to the witness that he had told gardaí in his statement that he was confident he would recognise the shooter if he saw him again as he had turned and looked at him. The barrister further put it to Mr Egan that he had also told gardaí that the shooter had dark hair, which was cut short. “Yes, that’s what I said,” replied Mr Egan, adding that he was not asked to attend an identity parade.
In re-examination, Mr Gillane asked the witness what he wanted to clarify when he returned to the Garda station to make a second statement on July 11th. “I wanted to clarify that it wasn’t the colour of his hair, in fact I couldn’t see his hair as he had his hoodie up,” he replied.
Professor Patrick Plunkett, a specialist in emergency medicine, said that Mr Douglas was under his care at St James’s Hospital on the night of July 1st. The victim had penetrating wounds to the right side of his chest, back of his neck and beneath his jaw, he said. The witness said Mr Douglas could not be resuscitated and he was pronounced dead at 4.55pm.
Detective Garda Alan Curry said he had recovered a loaded semi-automatic pistol with its serial number removed next to the victim’s head. The detective said he made the firearm safe at the scene by removing the magazine, which contained five rounds of ammunition. Three cartridge cases found on the floor outside the shop indicated that the shots were discharged from the roadway, he said, adding that the hammer of the weapon was still cocked and it had the capacity to hold 15 rounds of ammunition.
Iveta Sutkote said she was sitting in her vehicle with her ex-boyfriend facing the sea in a car park on Sandymount beach on the night of July 4th, when she saw a Mitsubishi car hit an unoccupied silver car that was parked behind them. There were three men in the Mitsubishi and one of them jumped out and tried to pour petrol on the silver car from a red canister, she said. Ms Sutkote said the Mitsubishi had a 99 TS registration and she called gardai with the full registration number when it drove off.
Garda Brian Hunt said he attended Strand Road at 11.40pm on July 4th and met two individuals who informed him that they had seen three males interfering with a Suzuki Swift car and crashing into it. There were scorch marks on the bonnet of the car and smouldering petrol could be seen on the ground, he said.
Sergeant Darren Reid said he was driving a patrol car on Parnell Road on the night of July 3th when he saw the four wheels of a Mitsubishi leaving the surface of the ground due to the speed it was being driven at. The witness said he did a U-turn, pursued the Mitsubishi and spoke to its driver, a Nathan Foley. At the same time, Sgt Reid said he heard a broadcast over the radio from Garda Brian Hunt indicating that he had spoken to two witnesses at Strand Road who had observed a Mitsubishi “ram into” a silver Suzuki Swift car and a person had attempted to set the vehicle on fire.
Garda Robert Fitzharris said that he was a passenger in the patrol car and the Mitsubishi had caught their attention so they pursued it. He said he got a strong smell of petrol coming from the accused man’s clothing. Gda Fitzharris said he asked Mr Canavan if he had anything on him that he should not have and the accused pulled out €1,065.
The garda said that a call then came in over the radio indicating that a male had been seen getting out of a car at Strand Road and tried to set fire to a Suzuki Swift. Gda Fitzharris said the registration belonging to the Mitsubishi car was then relayed to them over the radio. The witness said he arrested Mr Canavan on suspicion of criminal damage and conveyed him to Kevin Street Garda station, where a number of items were seized including €1,065 and two mobile phones. Both the Suzuki and the Mitsubishi were recovered for analysis.
In 2019, Nathan Foley (22) of Maryland, Dublin 8, was jailed for six years after he pleaded guilty to assisting a criminal organisation by driving one of four cars and buying mobile phones used in the offence.
Garda Cathal Feeney testified that he later retrieved a parking ticket, a smouldered fuel canister and a cap belonging to a fuel canister from the Suzuki Swift car.
Opening the trial, prosecution counsel Mr Gillane said the murder was a “carefully and meticulously planned one, to ensure that David Douglas met his death”. The barrister said that the court would hear of the movements of four vehicles on the day and that evidence would be produced linking Mr Canavan, through a fingerprint and a DNA sample, to two cars involved.
“Four vehicles were used in concert in planning and executing the murder,” he said, adding that the movements of these vehicles were key to understanding the killing.
Mr Canavan is the fourth person to appear before the courts charged in connection to the murder.
In 2018, Frederick ‘Fat Freddie’ Thompson (41) was jailed for life by the Special Criminal Court for the murder of Mr Douglas. Gareth Brophy (26) was jailed in February 2020 for ten years by the Special Criminal Court for his role as getaway driver.
The case continues tomorrow at the non-jury court before Mr Justice Michael MacGrath, presiding, sitting with Ms Justice Sinead Ni Chulacháin and Mr Justice Dermot Dempsey.